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On the Pulse Conversation: What is public perception of biometrics and how can we build trust?

16 June-31 December

On demand

On the Pulse Conversation: What is public perception of biometrics and how can we build trust? is now available to members on demand here.


60 minutes


Webex online platform – Live and on demand


The Biometrics Institute aims to deliver content to its members in a timely and concise format. The past 18 months have demonstrated that the online meeting place allows our members to connect globally and discuss important topics as and when the conversation is most needed.

What is public perception of biometrics and how can we build trust?

Public perception of biometrics continues to be a critical issue. The MIT Technology Review estimated that in 2019, more than 26 million people had voluntarily submitted their DNA samples to a private company for genealogy tracing, predicting the number would rise to 100 million by 2021. So why is there such concern about the gathering of other biometric data like face recognition for purposes? Perhaps at the core of this issue is the human sense of control. There is a great difference in the human mind between choosing to do something and being made to do that same thing. Where the purpose for the collection is not clear, or does not seem warranted or fair, problems arise.

As people see the benefit of using digital identities to establish their health credentials and quickly gain access to work, travel or entertainment, perhaps this balance will shift. That will only happen, however, if the expansion of use cases is accompanied by increased public understanding and growing level of trust for the reliability, fairness, and protection of the data in such systems.

Data ethics is an important part of any discussion on implementing biometric technology. How is fairness assessed and who is ultimately responsible?

Openness and honesty from those capturing, storing and sharing biometric data, and consent from those giving it will be critical to the expansion of programmes generated through outsourcing to the private sector or through joint partnerships between governments and the private sector.

There is the challenge of terminology and language. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) broadly defines “biometrics” and many of the key terms associated to it, but it does not define terminology specific to each biometric modality. The broad terminology definitions are not robust enough to meet the needs of the biometrics industry, which has led to various groups and organizations creating their own terminology based on the subject matter expertise of their members.

This, in turn, has resulted in the use of different terminology across the industry, as facial recognition technology adopters can choose definitions from various sources.

In addition, biometrics are a complex topic and if there isn’t a common approach to terminology and language and if we cannot explain biometrics use cases in simple easily understood terms, how can we expect the public to trust us?

Commonly accepted good practice tools and standards, transparency, accountability as well as oversight, controls and audits are critical to build public trust in what we do with biometrics.