This article was first published in Biometric Update in December 2020
This year has been a learning curve for the Biometrics Institute, as it has for most of you too. As the international membership organisation for people working in biometrics, we quickly realised – as the world shut down – that the dialogue on the responsible and ethical use of biometrics was more important than ever.
As 2020 progressed, with its unexpected twists and turns, our members turned to us for trusted and unbiased information and guidance. Like with any other technology, biometrics present risks – and those risks need to be carefully managed. The Biometrics Institute has developed a range of good practice tools to help organisations navigate the potential pitfalls from the very start of a project.
Our aim is to help you and the rest of the biometrics community get biometrics right.
By reducing the number of negative stories about poor policy and process decisions we will improve the confidence of decision-makers and the public in the technology.
So how can we achieve this?
The Good Practice Framework
The Biometrics Institute is governed by a board of international experts in biometrics. The work we do is supported by six expert groups and the members of our Advisory Council. Our Digital Identity, Future Direction, Privacy, Borders, Security and Integrity, and Academic Research and Innovation groups are all made up of knowledgeable people from government, air travel, policing, industry and academia. It is these groups – which in total comprise more than 50 people with decades of experience – that help us compile our good practice and guidance documents.
In the midst of the pandemic, we launched our Good Practice Framework in July. This universal good practice tool provides a structured pathway through the factors that may influence or constrain a biometric application.
As with all our publications and good practice tools, the framework was passed to our expert groups for a rigorous review. We then presented the first draft to members and key stakeholders at events in London, Australia and New Zealand and invited feedback from members. We received an overwhelming response from our extensive network including United Nations agencies, law enforcement and border experts, industry experts, biometrics leaders in government and civil liberties and human rights organisations. Their detailed comments really helped shape the current draft.
Enabling our members to really understand how to use this detailed document is our current task. We are clear that communication and education are a key focus for us in 2021.
As a community, how do we counter misinformation around biometrics? How do we educate decision-makers on what good biometric implementations look like? How do we avoid things going wrong with people’s most precious data?
Are you confident you know what a successful biometric implementation should look like?
The Global Good Practice Series
In December, we launched our Global Good Practice Series – a guided tour through the Good Practice Framework.
Our launch looked at the Three Laws of Biometrics, which we released in October. These concise principles were devised to prompt you to remember the fundamentals of using biometric technology responsibly and ethically. Policy first, then process and only then, technology. These laws really are a gateway to the Good Practice Framework.
In 2021 we will be running six Global Good Practice Series educational events addressing hot topics decided by our members.
The series will start with a focus on biometrics and surveillance on 3 March 2021, a topic that has been heavily and publicly debated over the past two years. This event will look at different use cases and will attempt to demystify some of the confusion around biometrics and facial recognition technology.
If we create a better understanding of biometric technology, the opportunities, and crucially the limitations, we believe we have a better chance of building trust in the use of the technology.
But we cannot raise this bar alone.
By joining our community, learning from others and following the guidance we can collectively create an environment where biometrics can flourish.
If this year has taught us anything it’s that by joining forces, we can bring about solutions to benefit the whole world.
So let’s get started…
About the author
Isabelle Moeller is Chief Executive at Biometrics Institute. The Biometrics Institute is the independent and impartial international membership organisation for biometric users and other interested parties. For more information visit www.biometricsinstitute.org.