Education is Critical! 3 Essential Takeaways From ‘Biometric Governments In Practice’

“The discussion in Biometric Governments in Practice helped set the bar for industry dialogue moving forward, not just in government sector identity management, but the industry at large in terms of privacy, education, and the shift toward convenient user experience as a market driver.”

Last Wednesday FindBiometrics brought Government Applications Month to a close with an expert webinar. Throughout all September, we cast a spotlight on biometric and identity management in the government sector, with live event coverage, industry news, and featured articles. Our month-long discussion culminated in an extended 55 minute live webcast featuring new market research and insights from industry thought leaders.

The panel consisted of the key minds in government identity management:

The conversation kicked off with new research from Acuity Market Intelligence and then opened up into a dynamic panel discussion that got to the heart of the opportunities and challenges of biometric applications in the government sector. Three major revelations emerged from the discussion:


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Education is Critical

“The idea that someone’s going to steal your fingerprint and you’re never going to be able to use it again is just false…”

Three Essential Takeaways From Biometric Governments In Practice

While education on the topic of biometric technology has been a key element of industry advocacy for the better part of a decade, the mainstreaming of consumer biometrics has lessened the fervor somewhat in the years following Apple’s initial Touch ID launch. But now that biometrics are verging on ubiquity, and stand to find integration in substantial and ambitious government deployments in an age of continuous high profile data breaches, education has to move back to the forefront of conversation.

“I think it’s critically important as we’re talking about security, and we’re talking about privacy, that the industry invests in education,” said Acuity Market Intelligence Principal Maxine Most. “I think we need to really clearly clarify a couple things. One is that biometrics can be a solution to this problem, not an add on. That if we use biometrics to control access to that information, and we do it in a way that not just incorporates privacy by design but security by design—in other words: we purpose-build systems to store and manage our biometric data and we use those systems to provide locks and keys to our [Personally Identifiable Information] that’s stored in other places—that biometrics can help solve this problem.”

Speaking to the second point of clarification, Most addressed misconceptions of irrevocability in biometrics, saying, “Biometrics is not a secret. You can’t steal somebody’s biometrics. The idea that someone’s going to steal your fingerprint and you’re never going to be able to use it again is just false, and we all know that because we’re storing templates, and templates are based on algorithms, and templates can be revoked and algorithms can be changed. I think we really need to frame the conversation about how biometrics is a tool that can help us solve these problems, it’s not just a pile on.”

Biometrics Enhance Privacy

“…we have to acknowledge and get out there the fact that biometrics enhances privacy. It’s not a trade off.”

Three Essential Takeaways From Biometric Governments In Practice

Privacy is closely entangled in the education discussion surrounding biometrics, as clearly seen in Most’s appeal for a shift in public perception. As governments continue to deploy biometrics for civil ID, voting, public safety and law enforcement, concerns regarding civil liberties and privacy begin to emerge. And while issues like mission creep and profiling are founded concerns, an important part of the conversation needs to be the privacy-enhancing aspects of biometric technology.

“Five years ago we testified in front of Senator Franken’s committee and there was a lot of talk about security versus privacy, and the trade-off between the two,” said Jim Albers, Vice President of Government Sales, Crossmatch. “And I think Maxine really hit on it when she said we have to acknowledge and get out there the fact that biometrics enhances privacy. It’s not a trade off.”

Benji Hutchinson, Senior Director of Washington D.C. Operations, NEC Corporation of America, expanded on this thought: “A lot of the concerns that swirl around privacy, I think they’re not necessarily completely well understood. And I think that we have a responsibility in the industry to educate folks and let them know how we build this technology, and that we do have a vested interest in ensuring that people’s data is protected, and that the technology works as well as we can possibly make it work.”

The ‘Do Nothing’ Biometrics Future Is Driving Large Scale Deployments

“It just works. And that is a real victory.”

Three Essential Takeaways From Biometric Governments In Practice

The future of biometrics in large scale deployments is going to be driven by convenience. While we have seen this in the consumer markets, with mobile fingerprint industry booming thanks to the low-friction of biometric access on smartphones, the situation is not exclusive to everyday electronics. The value proposition for end users on all levels of the biometric discussion is based on high levels of convenience, and in government applications such as border control, the proposition brings the promise of what Acuity terms ‘Do Nothing’ biometrics.

“The technology has been evolving, we all now that,” said Hutchinson. “And for the first time in our industry, we can see the the performance and the accuracy of the technology is at a certain level—whether it’s the mathematics, the algorithm behind the software, or it’s the sensor of the hardware—the technology doesn’t require a lot of human interaction like it once did.”

“So for example, when you talk about facial recognition or iris, you just simply walk by it. You don’t have to stop, stare, or interact with the machinery. It just works. And that is a real victory,” he said.

“Benji and my success started with catching bad guys,” explained Albers. “And when you’re catching bad guys the rules are different. The consumer part of this has now brought it to the good guys. So, how does it make my life easier? How is my travel facilitated? How do I get through airports very quickly? That’s what people are thinking about, particularly my kids. They don’t want to deal with the things we used to have to deal with. So I do think it started with catching bad guys, and it’s gone on from there and it’s gonna make people’s lives easier.”

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The discussion in Biometric Governments in Practice helped set the bar for industry dialogue moving forward, not just in government sector identity management, but the industry at large in terms of privacy, education, and the shift toward convenient user experience as a market driver. At FindBiometrics, we are strong advocates for industry education initiatives and pride ourselves in bringing the conversation to a wide audience through expert content, webinars, live conference panels, and more. Stay on top of all our latest activities by following us on Twitter, and sign up for the FindBiometrics newsletter to make sure you’re the first to receive the full recording of Biometric Governments in Practice when we release it later this month.

October 4, 2017 – by Peter B. Counter