How Broad Is Biometrics Usage?

Male and female being electronically scanned nearby

How Broad Is Biometrics Usage?

Biometrics Are Everywhere.  Phones and laptops are protected by your personal thumbprint or facial recognition for starting up.  Facial recognition is being used to pay public transit fares in Moscow, catch criminals worldwide, track potential terrorists in the U.S., and has been used to arrest people for “cyber pre-crimes” in China. 

The Irish Times reported that nine schools in North Ayrshire, southwest Scotland, will start taking payments for school lunches by scanning the faces of pupils, claiming that the new system speeds up queues and is more Covid-secure than the card payments and fingerprint scanners they used previously.

“It’s the fastest way of recognizing someone at the till – it’s faster than a card, it’s faster than fingerprint,” said David Swanston, the managing director of CRB Cunninghams, the company that installed the systems. “In a secondary school, you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.” He said the average transaction time was cut to five seconds per pupil.

An alternative to facial recognition, palm recognition, is being touted as safer than facial ID.  At Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, concert-goers will be able to attend events simply by swiping their palm, thanks to Amazon’s touchless technology, Amazon One.  After purchasing a ticket, concertgoers will be able to enter simply by placing their hand over an Amazon One device at the gates.  Look for this technology to expand to other venues in the near future.

“You don’t have to fumble around with your phone,” Bryan Perez, CEO of ticket agency AXS, told the Associated Press. “Your hand is always attached to your body.”

Startups are developing 3D biometric authentication, 3D fingerprint scanners, voice biometrics, and behavioral biometrics. Sound researchers at SUNY Buffalo can map someone’s finger veins in 3D, which promises to be far more secure than the current 2D finger scans. 

Venture investment in biometric technology is expected to top $40B over the next five years.

Not Everyone Is Onboard

Many British schools have used other biometric systems, such as fingerprint scanners, to take payments for years, but privacy campaigners in Ireland have said there is little need for such wide use of facial recognition technology in schools, which has been rightly criticized for operating without explicit consent.

The combination of 3D face mapping and selfie biometrics has led to concerns as to where the boundaries for privacy lie. Cognizant of this controversy, Facebook is disabling its public automated facial recognition.

“We’re shutting down the Face Recognition system on Facebook. People who’ve opted in will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos and we will delete more than a billion people’s individual facial recognition templates. “

Civil and digital rights groups recently launched a petition looking for the support of one million Europeans to help pressure the European Union to ban biometric mass surveillance ahead of laws on artificial intelligence (AI), coming out this year.

Surveillance tools like facial recognition systems have created valid concerns about risks to privacy and even fundamental rights. The real question is, do people have the right to anonymity?

The EU executive plans include a legislative proposal on AI in the first quarter of the year, which is expected to cover high-risk sectors such as healthcare, energy, transport, and other parts of the public sector.

The group called Reclaim Your Face is made up of the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, European Digital Rights, Privacy International, and nearly 30 other organizations warning of the dangers of biometric data captured via CCTV cameras and facial recognition technology.

In response, the European Parliament voted this month to back a total ban on biometric mass surveillance and the use of private facial recognition databases. Similar efforts are happening in San Francisco as well as Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.