Governments were forced to take cybersecurity more seriously in 2021. Though the attack happened before the start of the year, January opened with conversations about the hack of SolarWinds, an incident that was at least partially attributed to password vulnerabilities. That was followed by a separate ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline in May.
Those incidents (amongst several others) served as a wakeup call for many governments. President Biden issued an executive order mandating US federal agencies to implement multi-factor authentication, and public agencies all over the world are increasingly turning to biometric technologies to provide better digital services while minimizing the threat of fraud.
However, that shift toward biometrics has not been without some controversy. Privacy advocates have argued that governments cannot be trusted to protect people’s biometric information. That stance gained greater urgency after the Taliban reportedly seized biometric devices left behind by the US in Afghanistan.
Such incidents are now driving a broader debate about what information should be stored in government biometric databases, and about privacy more generally. President Biden, for instance, reversed a Trump order that would have expanded the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric data collection powers. At the same time, multiple federal agencies have expressed open enthusiasm for Clearview AI’s facial recognition platform, even though several countries have forced the company to suspend its operations due to data privacy violations.
It’s unlikely that those questions are going to be resolved any time soon. If nothing else, 2021 simply revealed that international governments need to update their security practices to shore up the gaps in their current systems, and that they need to be cognizant about how they go about doing it to make sure they don’t end up doing more harm.
Be sure to complete our 2021 Year In Review Survey to share your thoughts on the government’s use of biometric tech.
December 22, 2021 – by Eric Weiss
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