Terry Aulich: Thoughts as Chair of the Biometrics Privacy Experts Group, on the 20-year anniversary of the Institute
As Chair of the Biometrics Institute’s Privacy Experts Group, I have been amazed at the development of the biometrics technology and industry over the last twenty years. Initially, biometrics had a public image of sci-fi semi-reality, and few understood what would come to pass. Now, more than thirty-five countries issue biometrically enabled passports, mobile phones and doors are secured by biometrics, refugee medicines and food are distributed with biometrics ensuring security and fairness in the process, social media uses biometrics and biometrics have a significant role to play in areas as diverse as marketing and military uses.
At the centre of this rapid development has been the Biometrics Institute. As a strategic advisor to the Board in those days, I watched three very important decisions being made. The first was the decision to ensure that the Institute was independent and a respected organisation. This was done in several ways: the most important was to ensure that constitutional control had to be in the hands of the users; the Institute had to be the source of credible information and ethical practice.
The second was to ensure that privacy was front and centre of everything the Institute did. In practical terms this meant the creation of Privacy Guidelines which are updated every two years in line with social, technical, and commercial challenges.
The third has been the expert committees, conferences and training programmes which have ensured that the Institute is the source of credible trusted expert advice and information.
All three of those developments could not have been possible without the thousands of hours of volunteer experts, a seriously good succession of Board members from many sectors and countries and, most important of all, the long-term guidance and drive of the Institute’s CEO, Isabelle Moeller.
Isabelle especially understood how events needed to be managed and has had the golden touch that turns an international organisation into the biometric family where sharing ideas and knowledge and, in many cases friendships, has become the norm.
The Institute has also worked together with many international organisations such as the UN, INTERPOL, and leading universities. Much work has been on technical matters, anti-crime and anti-terrorism policy, human rights, privacy, and immigration.
Like all new technologies, biometrics can be abused for reasons of greed, authoritarianism, or plain stupidity. This is why the Institute’s work has been so heavily concentrated on ethical considerations, where the human comes before machines. This approach has been richly rewarded as more and more organisations around the world have joined the Institute.
From humble beginnings in Sydney Australia, the Institute has grown with the industry and become multinational, finally basing itself in London but retaining its office in Sydney. It has been one of the great unsung stories of the modern IT era and we look forward to many more years and more organisations realising that fact and taking advantage of all that the Institute offers.
Aulich & Co.
+61 407 106 836
Head of the Privacy Expert Group, Biometrics Institute