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Biometrics Conference: trust critical to acceptance of biometrics

FEATURE: NZ Security, August 2015

The Biometrics Institute Asia-Pacific Conference was held in late May at Sydney’s Dockside conference venue with the theme ‘Identity, Security & Trust – Creating a seamless customer experience in the physical and digital world’. Indeed, trust and the customer experience became dominant themes as speakers started taking their turns at the lectern.

Keynote speakers included Australia’s Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton; Michael O’Connell, Director, Operational Police Support Directorate, Interpol; and Clarence Yeo, Commissioner, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Singapore. Joining them were a range of expert speakers, including Mandy Smith, Head of Agency Services & RealMe, Kiwibank, and Aaron Baker of Immigration New Zealand.

In his keynote address, Minister Dutton suggested that wider adoption of biometric technology can reduce identity crime, which in Australia is estimated
to affect around one million people and cost $1.6 billion annually. “To put it
in perspective, identity crime is more common than assault, robbery, break-ins and motor vehicle theft.

It also holds grave danger for us as a nation – as terrorists and organised crime groups adapt and adopt increasingly sophisticated counterfeit techniques to produce false identity papers and credentials to evade detection at borders or law enforcement or national security agencies.”

Security important, as is client experience

At airports, although biometrics tends to be focused on securing borders against a high risk, non-bona fide travelling minority, speakers suggested that its utility will eventually be most keenly felt in helping to manage the ever growing numbers of low-risk passengers move briskly through border points.

According to Ms Hinds, Director, Law Enforcement Policy at the Australia’s Immigration Department, “biometrics
is crucial for handling the growing movement throughput.”

And Aussie travellers seem to be increasingly okay with this application
of biometrics. According to a Unisys Security Index survey, 71% of Australians support the use of biometrics as an ID check for frequent travellers deemed to
be a low security risk. Interestingly, the survey also revealed that in the wake of the Flight MH370 disappearance 75%
of Australians would support the use of biometrics to confirm passenger identity when boarding a flight.

Ms Hinds noted that although privacy is a “limited commodity” in the border context, there nevertheless is a need to ensure that biometrics collection adheres to principles of proportionality and are fit for purpose. “For the overwhelming majority of travellers, the collection of just one biometric – a facial image – is necessary.”

Interestingly, surveys indicate that public acceptance of biometric collection – and particularly the taking of fingerprints
– tends to be highest among younger respondents. Older generations perhaps associate fingerprinting with criminality given that the practice has traditionally been depicted in the media as part of formal arrest and incarceration processes. For youth, providing a fingerprint is what one does to access their smart phone.

A key aspect of biometrics’ power is its convenience. With just one facial image capture or one fingerprint scan, a person’s identity may be known, stored and used for any number of potentially malevolent purposes. As the conference’s discussion session on ‘biometrics and privacy’ identified, “with convenience comes temptation”, and the biometrics industry is struggling with how to handle this.

A Trust Mark for responsible use

The Biometrics Institute recently released the results of its 2015 Industry Survey, which, according to the institute’s Chief Executive Isabelle Moeller, “confirm that the current and significant issues around Privacy and Data protection and the need to build consumer trust in biometrics is at a critical stage in the adoption of biometrics.”

To this end, the institute has been working on the development of an industry Trust Mark, with the aim of giving consumers confidence in the responsible use of identity products and services. “Creating consumer trust in why their biometric information is being collected and how it is handled, stored and potentially deleted is essential for the success of this industry.”

The institute has been consulting with its members and key stakeholders on privacy and the Trust Mark proposal. A feasibility study for the proposal has been approved by its Board of Directors,

The Biometrics Institute was itself established to promote the responsible use of biometrics technologies, and
it promotes itself as the independent and impartial international forum for biometrics users and other interested parties. With currently have over
185 member organisations including government agencies, financial institutions, health service providers and vendors of biometric products
and services, its membership has been growing as quickly as the technology is evolving.

An institute Member Meeting is scheduled to take place in Wellington
on Thursday, 27 November 2014, and it already boasts an impressive line-up of speakers from the institute, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, NEC New Zealand and Datacom New Zealand.
 Details via the Biometric Institute website

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ePassport gates: the increasingly familiar new face of airport border control. Image courtesy Home Office (UK) 

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