Friday, June 28, 2013

Soon, your body will be the only password you need (DVice)
Tiny little computers and sensors are in development all across the globe. And while their development is primarily geared toward a better understanding of our health, there's another emerging application for their use — biometric security, where your voice and skin and eyeballs are more secure than any password could ever be.

On the one hand, this can sound crazy and too fictitious to be true, especially since it's been a staple for just about every single sci-fi movie and TV show ever. On the other, we've basically already accepted the use of our bodies as sources of information and security.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

EFF sues for FBI response to FOIA request

EFF Sues FBI For Access to Facial-Recognition Records (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
As the FBI is rushing to build a "bigger, faster and better" biometrics database, it's also dragging its feet in releasing information related to the program's impact on the American public. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI to produce records to satisfy three outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests that EFF submitted one year ago to shine light on the program and its face-recognition components.

Since early 2011, EFF has been closely following the FBI's work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.
The text of the actual suit is also available at the EFF site [pdf] here.

Adam Vrankulj, covering the topic at Biometric Update, recalls that "The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI in April to obtain documents related to the NGI."

That's a good catch, and it offers the opportunity to revisit the EPIC suit, assessed at the time here, in: EPIC sues FBI over biometrics FOIA request, where we noted EPIC's tendency to overshoot the mark where technology is concerned.

The EFF requests are, to summarize, for:
1. Records related to the FBI's proposed relationship with states to "build out its facial recognition database"
2. The FBI's plans to combine civil and criminal data
3. Records related to the reliability of facial recognition capabilities

When compared to those of EPIC, the EFF FOIA activities certainly reflect a more moderate approach that would appear to have a higher likelihood of bearing fruit. The EFF seems carefully to avoid asking for information that the FBI can't provide, and it would appear to be an easier request to comply with than EPIC's.

The EFF's FOIA request/lawsuit has borne fruit.
FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in its NGI Face Recognition Database by Next Year (EFF) Read te whole thing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Philippines: Biometrics help Manila facilitate better flood control measures

Biometric census on informal settler families living along Manggahan Floodway has already been completed (Manila Bulletin)
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino said yesterday they have sent the list of identified informal settlers residing in eight identified priority waterways in Metro Manila who are scheduled to be relocated by next December.
Once shanties have been removed, the government can start with the flood-preventing projects which are hampered by the presence of illegal structures along the waterways.

The move is part of the flood control master plan in a bid to solve the perennial flood problems in the Metro Manila.
Biometric Authentication Provides Better Mobile Device Security (Press Release via Marketwatch)
"Today's phones already enable contactless payments, mobile wallets and mobile banking, and these changes signal the need for secure services that can be performed wirelessly or with a smartphone," says Denise Culver, research analyst with Heavy Reading Insider and author of the report. "And as smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices continue to proliferate and provide users with powerful, mobile, networked multimedia computing options, the need to secure them will become even greater."

The drive behind biometric authentication on smartphones will occur from both the consumer and enterprise, Culver says

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Biometrics in fashion

(No)where (Now)here: Two Gaze-activated Dresses by Ying Gao (Dezeen Magazine)
Fashion designer Ying Gao has fabricated a pair of dresses that writhe around and light up when someone stares at them (+ movie).

The gaze-activated dresses are embedded with eye-tracking technology that responds to an observer's gaze by activating tiny motors to move parts of the dresses in mesmerising patterns.

Nigeria biometrics for deportees

Nigeria: Immigration sets up biometric database for deported immigrants (Punch)
The Nigerian Immigration Service has set up a biometric database for all arrested illegal immigrants across the country.

The agency said the initiative had become necessary because of security challenges in the country.
...and Nigeria has serious security challenges.

After long hiatus, Israel biometric ID pilot set to begin

Israel's biometric database to begin operating in two weeks (Haaretz)
Israel's pilot biometric database will begin operations in two weeks, Deputy Interior Minister Fania Kirshenbaum announced Monday.

The database was supposed to have started working in November 2011, but its commencement was delayed due to longer-than-expected legislative proceedings, an appeal to the High Court of Justice by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (which was turned down) and a labor dispute between the Population and Immigration Authority and the Finance Ministry. This dispute was resolved two weeks ago, removing the last obstacle for implementation of the project.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The tenuousness of ID

Disoriented, Man With ID Is Still a Puzzle (NY Times)
Facial recognition can be useful for identifying people who can not identify themselves, but this case is complicated by an international border and migration patterns. It also helps if someone is looking for the person in question.

Friday, June 21, 2013

More biometrics market analysis

Biometrics Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2012 - 2018
The market for Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and other fingerprint biometric technologies account for the largest share of the global biometrics market and is expected to retain its dominance in the market in the coming future. This sector is valued at USD 2.8 billion in 2010 and is expected to increase at a CAGR of 19.6% to reach nearly USD 6.6 billion by 2015.

The facial structure, the iris, veins, and voice recognition together constitute the second largest segment. This sector is worth an estimated $1.4 billion in 2010 and is expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2015, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9%.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Next Generation Biometric Technologies Market – Global Forecast & Analysis (2012 – 2017) (Research and Markets) — The global biometric technology, types, and applications market is expected to reach $13.89 billion by 2017 at an estimated CAGR of 18.7%. North America is a market leader in biometric technology market.

After all, biometrics and object recognition are closely related

Lithuania’s Neurotechnology releases SentiSight 3.2 for object recognition (Baltic Course) — Provider of biometric identification technologies releases SentiSight 3.2 for object recognition.

See: Biometrics, object recognition and search

Some people really love stovepipes...

...otherwise there wouldn't be so many.

Congress demands progress on advanced ID cards  (FCW)
"We've spent billions and we have nothing to show for it," said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) at a June 19 hearing addressing lagging implementation of fingerprint and iris recognition technology. Mica, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Government Operations, noted various examples of flawed federal biometric ID efforts, including the Transportation Workers Identification Credential, or TWIC card, and the Federal Aviation Administration's new pilot's license -- which does not include a photo of the licensee.

"It's mind boggling that we have nothing close to meeting with the intent of the 2004 law," said Mica. "Is there any sense of urgency here?" asked Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the subcommittee's ranking minority member.

Witnesses included managers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FAA, Customs and Border Protection and the State Department.
It's stunning that pilots licenses still don't have photographs on them. Lots of good information awaits those who click the link.
Biometrics Offer Promise for More Secure Smartphones (Interactive Intelligence)
As mobile devices, smartphones and tablets become more prolific, the need to secure them grows exponentially, and biometric authentication offers that security, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading Insider, a subscription research service from Heavy Reading.
Much more at the link.

TWIC update

Officials Confident In TWIC Readers As Comment Period Closes (Homeland Security Today)
As the comment period for identification card readers for US ports draws to a close Thursday, officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) remain confident that the overall personal identity verification program for port workers is on track.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aadhaar opens up new revenue streams for domestic IT firms (Economic Times) — Don't forget. UID aims to be an information age infrastructure that can underpin economic growth both through direct transfers to poor people and as a platform for delivering private sector services.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nothing is fool proof

Google’s Patent on Facial Passwords Published; Analysts Not Impressed (Mobile Bloom) — "Fool proof biometrics are yet to be designed and according to experts, this technology won’t come close to achieving it either."

Nothing is fool proof. If easy-to-use facial recognition leads to more people protecting their mobile handset with some sort of access control technology, that's probably a good thing. The process described at the link is actually pretty sophisticated and would probably suffice for 99.99% of mobile device users.

No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.
—John Ruskin

Substitute "technology" for "art" and it's still true.

Face Recognition above the fold at the Washington Post

In the Sunday edition yesterday, the Washington Post ran a long piece above the fold on facial recognition, photo databases, and law enforcement.

State photo-ID databases become troves for police (Washington Post)

It looks like the issues we have been discussing are finally going mainstream.

For fashion tips on how to beat facial recognition, check out CV Dazzle.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The workers are ghosts. The money is real.

It's too bad ghost workers don't earn ghost money.

Nigeria: Taming the Ghost Workers (Indepth Africa)
The ghost workers were detected through the biometric initiative undertaken by the Federal Government. Okonjo-Iweala declared that it was shocking that the Federal Government had survived it this far considering the level of graft on the public payroll. During the last exercise, FG uncovers 46,821 ghost workers!

Accordingly, the minister said the biometric exercise would be pursued vigorously in the coming days with a view to plugging loopholes and to save funds for the government to deploy in critical areas of need.
N118.9billion was saved.

XE Currency Converter

If that's not some serious RoI, somebody has a lot of explaining to do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Patient ID in the United States

Identifying Solutions to Patient ID (HealthLeaders)
Patient identification is a fundamental building block of the emerging accountable care organization trend, according to Bill Spooner, CIO of Sharp HealthCare, which operates four acute care and three specialty care hospitals with an approximate total of 2,000 licensed beds in the San Diego region.

"The important thing is to be able to get accurately identified patients into your database and to be able to link them out to your transaction systems so everybody knows who they are so you can effectively engage in care management," Spooner says.

The United States in particular faces a hurdle that other developed countries do not: By law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is prohibited from establishing a national patient identifier.

Providers are coping in several ways. Technology exists to flag suspected duplicate identities with varying degrees of certainty. Some are turning to technology offered by suppliers of their electronic health records.

Other providers are relying upon technology that has been employed by payers for years. And for those systems that can make the technological jump, patients are now being positively identified during every visit using smart cards with photo IDs attached, or even by biometric means, such as fingerprint, palm, or retinal scans. [ed. The revolution will not be retinal scans; bold emphasis mine]

Bottom line:
"If you can't uniquely identify your patients within whatever data you're analyzing, you're going to misread and therefore make executive decisions that are not spot-on,[a]nd you make some big strategic mistakes because of that."

The lengthy piece is very much worth a longer look.

Seeing a lot more about finger veins lately...

Poland's Getin Bank deploys Hitachi finger vein biometric tech in branches
Nowadays, biometrics is considered to be the best method of authentication in the banking sector with a wide range of applications, including at ATMs, branches and internet banking payments. "Within the framework of Getin Up project we want to offer our customers the package of technical innovations that will facilitate them day-by-day using of banking services. Our long-term objective is to implement biometrics in all bank branches." - said Karol Karolkiewicz, member of the Management Board of Getin Noble Bank.

Biometric technology is used to authenticate a person based on unique human physical or behavioural characteristics such as iris, fingerprint, voice or finger vein patterns. Getin Bank chose finger vein biometrics based on it being safe and secure via the use of the unique structure of blood vessels inside fingers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Compared to what?

Facial recognition software flops in US trials (Information Age)
"The number of system-generated false positives was excessive," concluded the report, recently obtained under freedom of information regulations.

The airport had installed two separate facial recognition systems at security checkpoints at the airport. However, they failed to detect volunteers posing as terrorists 96 times during the three months that the trial was running, despite successfully picking them up 153 times.

Logan Airport was where 10 of the 19 terrorists involved in the 11 September terror attacks on New York boarded their flights.
Articles like this only make sense with reference to the expectations of the people that write them and users of the technology.

Catching a bad guy in 153 out of 249 chances (a 61.4% success rate) is obviously worth something, especially if the chance of catching that bad guy was 0% before the addition of the new technology. [Note: this analysis only makes sense if it is assumed that the subjects involved are on a watch list.]

The article also mentions the September 11 hijackers, begging the question: would the attacks have been possible if 11 or 12 (out of nineteen) of the attackers had been detected on the day?

Maybe, maybe not. Security protocols, not technology, would determine the answer. But a smart security protocol might say that if six terrorists are caught entering the same airport within a couple of hours of each other, certain measures should be taken.

False positives and low accuracy are real concerns to be overcome by improved performance of facial recognition systems. In fact, they are interchangeable problems. SecurLinx can provide a system that rarely provides false positives, but will fail to alert the user to a larger proportion of accurate matches, or we can provide a system that will catch more matches but will generate more false positives. We work with end users to help them determine their own "sweet spot" for the kinds of matches to which they want to be alerted. Facial recognition in surveillance applications isn't like fingerprint biometrics.

The key to getting these things right for the customer and delivering the goods on a Return-on-Investment basis, is good communication about system capabilities, good training, and the application of the technology at the appropriate job function level.

If the system was sold as a bulletproof terrorist finder, a 39% failure rate is a flop. If it was sold as a 61% chance of preventing disaster, isn't that worth something?

See also: Biometrics & ID infrastructure: Perfect is the enemy of good

A quick education into voice biometrics

Voice Biometrics detects 98% of fraudulent calls (IT Wire)
Traditionally ID verification is all about two or more things - something you know (knowledge factor), something you have (possession factor) and something the user is (biometric factor).

VB [ed. Voice Biometrics] is one of the strongest and most convenient of these three, with a few seconds of natural speech removing the need for pin numbers, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and so on. All of which are increasingly easy to get hold of from social media sources and targeted malware stealing pins and passwords.
Read the whole thing. Voice biometrics seem to be improving rapidly and there is a huge installed base of networked hardware — land line phones — for which voice is the only biometric option.

Bulgaria: Fingerprint authentication for Members of Parliament

Bulgarian MPs Switch to Fingerprint Voting System (novinite)
At the beginning of Wednesday's sitting of Parliament, Mikov announced that the use of biometrics would put an end to the practice of voting with other MPs' cards.

The use of biometrics was introduced in early 2010.

However, the process of collection of biometric data and their integration into the MP cards in Bulgaria's 42nd National Assembly was delayed, [...]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Biometric payments are top option for security-concious shoppers, survey finds(49%) stated they would like to have biometric payments, such as fingerprint, palm or iris scanners, far outweighing the popularity of emerging mobile technology options. Thirty per cent would like to use PIN based smartphone payments, 25% online wallets, and 23% are keen to use SMS payments.

Market Report: China fingerprint biometrics revenue six-fold increase by 2018

China Biometrics Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018 (Research and Markets)
“China Biometrics Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018”, identifies that fingerprint identification market in China is anticipated to grow at the CAGR of around 38%, reaching up by six folds revenue by the end of 2018. Anhui, Shandong and Shanghai are the leading provinces of eastern region, generating highest revenue in biometrics market when compared with other regions in the country. One of the other large biometric projects is e-passports, which is primarily to be implemented in Shaanxi province in northern region and would act as the main growth driver for biometrics market in the next five years. The major players of biometrics industry in China are Zk Technology, Ingersoll Rand, Rosslare Security, Zks Group and Suprema Inc.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can facial recognition assist art historians?

Art research effort aided by face recognition (BBC)
The software under development by Prof Rudolph, engineer Amit Roy-Chowdhury and art historian Jeanette Kohl will try to put a name to these forgotten likenesses by grabbing data about defining elements of faces from portraits and comparing them to known depictions.

Early work on the project established that key parameters for facial recognition in portraiture include the position of the corners of the eyes and mouth, the width between the eyes, and the width of the mouth. Mapping these characteristics using a 27-point scheme captures sufficient information to make identifications, said the researchers.
Benjamin Franklin death mask.
The application of facial recognition technologies to the challenges of art history is a fascinating topic. We once had a call from a collector who believed he had discovered a third existing photograph of Henry David Thoreau and wanted our help with the verification.

The BBC article, however, discusses the application of facial recognition technology to artifacts created before the invention of photography, which presents a whole different set of challenges.

Art historians interested in applying software to facial analysis might be wise to enroll death masks (also mentioned in the article, or life masks) as database images since they are as nearly as possible an actual recording of a person's face. Those could then be compared to painted images purportedly of the same person. Using this technique, art historians would quickly get an idea of how "accurate" portraitists (in general, or individually) were at painting images to the mathematical specificity that underlies facial recognition algorithms.

They would probably learn a lot from this basic exercise. How accurate did portraits tend to be? Were they supposed to be scientifically accurate? Or, were they more like the airbrushed and Photoshopped images that grace the covers of magazines today? Were certain portraitists consistently more accurate than others. Once these questions are well understood, analysis of painted or carved images for identification purposes might come within reach even where no contemporary physical impression of the face exists.

Friday, June 7, 2013

UK: London’s Gatwick Airport is conducting a world-first trial of a new biometric automated aircraft boarding system. (Airport World)
Intel to Invest $100 Million in Voice, Gesture Technologies (Wall Street Journal)
Intel [...] Capital, the global investment arm of chipmaker Intel Corp., is setting up a $100 million fund to invest in "perceptual" computing technologies like voice and gesture control, company executives said. The fund will invest over the next two to three years in firms making software and applications with functions like imaging, gesture and voice control, emotion sensing and biometrics, the company said.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ghost roads and bridges leading to ghost schools attended by ghost students being taught by ghost teachers

No shortage of teachers in ARMM following elimination of ‘ghost pupils’ (Inquirer News)
The top education official in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao claims that unlike other regions plagued with shortages of teachers and classrooms no such problem was evident in the ARMM when school opened last Monday.

“There were no teacher and classroom shortages even after we had cleansed the payroll of ghost teachers,” ARMM Secretary of Education Jamar Kulayan told reporters here Wednesday. That was because, as the joke goes, they also eliminated a lot of “ghost students” and “ghost schools.”
The ARMM saved approximately US $19 million by cleaning out the ghosts.

Read these two together...

Read this...

Emotient and iMotions partner for integrated facial expression recognition, bio sensor and eye-tracking solution (Biometric Update)
Emotient, which specializes in facial expression analysis, and iMotions, an eye-tracking and biometric software platform company, have announced that Procter and Gamble, The United States Air Force and Yale University are its first customers for a newly integrated platform that combines facial expressions recognition and analysis, eye-tracking, EEG and GSR technologies.

According to the companies, the new cobmbined solution is designed for usability research, market research, neurogaming as well as academic and scientific research.

Then this...

Google facial password patent aims to boost Android security (BBC)
Google has filed a patent suggesting users stick out their tongue or wrinkle their nose in place of a password.

It says requiring specific gestures could prevent the existing Face Unlock facility being fooled by photos.

...and then think about Google Glass (or something similar offered by another brand) and the things that become knowable as these technologies are combined and others are added. Iris and face for backward-facing and front-facing ID, knowing precisely what (or whom) someone is looking at when a certain change in neurological activity is noted. Or, precise targeting of weaponry controlled by the eye's movement along with detailed observations of the neurological states of combatants.

Right now, all of it seems like a long way off, and it is. Significant scientific, technological, and organizational barriers exist. The technology of measurement; the science of interpretation; the fact that a lot of small players own small pieces of the puzzle; integrating the pieces: each present significant challenges. But...

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Stay tuned. Ubiquitous multi-modal sensors and the real-time ability to interpret and act on the data they collect would have profound effects.

Perspecitves on ID in earlier- vs. later-developing countries

The Government and the UK's National Technical Authority on Information Assurance (CESG) have published new guidance on 'identity proofing' and verification. (Pinsent Masons)
"Within the UK there is no official or statutory attribute or set of attributes that are used to uniquely identify individuals across Government," the joint Cabinet Office and CESG guidance document said. "Neither is there a single official or statutory issued document whose primary purpose is that of identifying an individual. Without such attributes or documentation it is difficult for any person to be absolutely certain of the identity of another."

"This guide is designed to demonstrate how a combination of the breadth of evidence provided, the strength of the evidence itself, the validation and verification processes conducted and a history of activity can provide various levels of assurance around the legitimacy of an identity," it said.
The whole piece is interesting.

The first quoted sentence above really jumps out, though.

The early industrializers/bureaucratizers typically developed their ID schemes in an ad hoc fashion. The church kept its records for its purposes. The military kept its records for its purposes. Schools, for theirs. Service providers, etc. The system generally works. In the end, error rates and whether or not the costs of the ID errors exceed what it would cost to fix them rule the day. Political and financial considerations factor in.

It is precisely this patchwork ID environment that later-developing countries are choosing to leap-frog with more centralized (United Arab Emirates) or ecosystem (India) approaches involving biometrics. Outside observers from the earlier developing countries are often surprised that their political perspective on government-backed ID isn't universally shared while observers in later-developing countries may be equally surprised that the most developed countries in the world have such patchwork ID systems.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The biometrics boom

New technology can identify you by unique traits in your eyes, your voice, and your gait. Is there cause for alarm? (The Week)

Bach's fingerprint

Bach's fingerprint care of Classic FM and @AdamVrankulj...

In 1717, when Bach was imprisoned by his employer, the authorities took his fingerprint...
(click for larger image @classicfm)

Computerworld honors Aadhaar

Computerworld Honors 2013: ID program empowers citizens in India (Computerworld)
An estimated 400 million Indians cannot prove their identity. As a result, they're shut out of countless opportunities. They cannot access educational programs, open a bank account, apply for welfare benefits or seek higher-level employment. Lack of identification is also problematic for the government, because as much as 40% of the $40 billion it directs yearly toward helping these individuals doesn't reach the intended beneficiaries.
Aadhaar is more than a technology program that collects biometric data from residents. It is a transformative initiative that will allow all Indian residents the opportunity to participate more fully in society.
The Computerworld Honors Program, now in its 25th year, recognizes organizations that use information technology to promote and advance the public welfare, benefit society and business, and change the world for the better. This year's 267 Laureates are that rare group with the ability to recognize problems and the courage to take bold steps to solve them. They are an inspiring reminder that great things can happen when determined people explore technology's full potential.

UNICEF awareness campaign for universal ID in Paraguay

In what has come to be known as the "No Name Match," UNICEF brilliantly harnessed the power of the Paraguay-Uruguay World Cup qualification match to drive the issue of universal ID for Paraguayans to the front of people's minds before recent elections.

The two-minute video below is really good.


Without universal legitimate ID, it's harder to make a lot of other things work that most of us take for granted. Universal vaccination against preventable disease, compulsory primary education, effective social safety nets — all of these things get a lot easier if everyone can prove their unique identity.

Monday, June 3, 2013

If it's a camera, it can be used for facial recognition

Google outlaws facial recognition apps on Glass for now (CSO)
Google announced late Friday that it will outlaw facial recognition and other biometric identification apps on Glass, its networked eyewear still in prototype phase that's expected to be commercially released later this year.

“As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place,” Google’s Project Glass team said in on its Google Plus page.

Google may have publicly said this, however until now its developer policy did not explicitly rule out apps that can do facial recognition.
If it's a camera, it can be used for facial recognition. Facial recognition is really just a specific type of image analysis. It doesn't matter where the image comes from. It could be a 19th Century daguerreotype or a picture taken from space. The software doesn't care. Presumably running the open source Android operating system, as a head-mounted sensor array with a camera, there is little or nothing preventing application developers from passing images collected via the headset through facial recognition applications not developed by Google.

Google's announcement should be taken to mean that Google isn't going to integrate facial recognition into Google Glass. Facial recognition apps won't be on the Google Play store. And, at least for now, they won't be facilitating face rec. in other Google services such as YouTube, search, Gmail, and Google+.