Press Release: Digital identity main area of significant biometric development over the next five years, survey finds

15 July 2021: The highest proportion of respondents to the Biometrics Institute’s annual Industry Survey believe digital identity will be the main area of significant biometric development over the next five years. Industry professionals (90+%) agreed that biometrics will be the key enabler for anchoring digital identity and  also that there will continue to be significant growth in mobile remote identity verification systems and remote onboarding technology. Our Digital Onboarding and Biometrics Guiding Paper was a first initiative to address good practices for biometrics and digital identity and this work will continue.

In its twelfth year, the Institute’s Industry Survey provides an insight into current trends and developments in the biometrics industry over the last year as well as looking ahead to the future. The results also provide insights into industry views on several key issues.

Isabelle Moeller, Biometrics Institute chief executive said, ‘This year new questions on vaccine certificates and the use of biometrics; the importance of testing and the risk of spoofing; as well as those on digital identity were included in the Industry Survey. These will be explored further in our upcoming member discussions commencing with the annual Biometrics Institute Congress to be held online in October 2021.

As privacy concerns continue to be seen as the main barrier to the adoption of biometrics, and legislation; regulation; standards and testing all struggle to keep pace with technology, the Institute has an important role to play in continuing to bring diverse stakeholders together to discuss these issues. Our biannual Privacy Guidelines Paper which reflects the global changes in technology and legislation which impact privacy was updated in May.”

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of biometrics

This year there was majority agreement (63%) that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of biometric solutions, with three quarters thinking that new solutions and technology will be critical in managing this and future pandemics.

In the health area, most (60%) thought that biometrics should be used internationally to provide the necessary identification assurance for vaccine certificates with few (14%) actively disagreeing. There were divergent views as to whether health protection will be more important than privacy protection over the next few years – 39% agreed, 32% disagreed and the remainder were unsure.

Biometrics growing too rapidly for existing controls to be effective. Governance and transparency needed

In contrast last year, a higher proportion thought that the use of biometrics is growing too rapidly for existing controls to be effective (48%).  As with last year, those in Europe were the most likely to feel there is already sufficient legislation in place, with those in regions outside ANZ, Europe and the Americas more likely to feel the legislation is on balance not strict enough.

When asked specifically in which areas legislation should be tightened – policing/law enforcement; commercial uses; and social media and political use all topped the list, selected by around 60%.

Regarding the very public debate on whether a ban or moratorium on police use of face recognition is necessary, only around one in ten agreed, with a large majority of 64% disagreeing. This will be an important area for the Institute to continue engaging with key-decision makers and regulators. Our Should we ban Facial Recognition Viewpoint Paper is certainly a document that should be revisited.

Two thirds of industry professionals agreed that a lack of transparency from organisations in their use of biometrics causes public distrust, with only 12% disagreeing with this view.

There was strong agreement (79%) with the premise that any biometric implementation must have human rights at front of mind. By the same token, nearly three quarters (74%) agreed with the principle that there should be no conviction, denial of service or presumption of wrongdoing solely based on an automated system without human decision making (‘a human in the loop’).

Testing is critical

There has been a lot of discussion around testing in the industry over the last year and this section of the survey looked at some key attitudes in this area. We released The Three Laws of Biometrics Paper in October 2020 as a prompt to remember the fundamentals of using biometric technology responsibly and ethically.

Opinion was divided as to whether biometrics are now more vulnerable to spoofing attacks than ever before – approximately a third thought this to be the case, a further third disagreed, and the remainder were uncertain.

Similarly on the highly debated issue of demographic differentials, there was a diverse range of opinion: 36% agreed that the issue of demographic differentials in face recognition is overstated but this was counterbalanced by 28% who disagreed, with the remainder uncertain. We released our member report NIST top 10 Takeaways – Demographic Differentials Paper in September 2020 which outlined in more simple terms the NIST findings on this issue and we therefore clearly must continue discussing this subject.

As in 2020, the statement, properly educating the public about the benefits of biometrics is critical for the future of the industry, prompted one of the highest levels of agreement overall (90%) with negligible disagreement. We are looking at ways to better inform decision-makers and the public. To celebrate our 20th anniversary this year on the 11 October, we are releasing a commemorative publication promoting greater awareness and understanding of the industry and the Institute’s achievements. We will invite our members to make contributions and the report will be shared with our members, key stakeholders, and the public.

The summary as well as the full report – which contains more detail and further analysis by region and other key subgroups – is available to members here.

Notes to editors:

371 industry professionals from across the world took part in the online survey in June 2021.

The Biometrics Institute is the independent and impartial international membership organisation for biometric users and other interested parties. It was established in 2001 to promote the responsible use of biometrics and has offices in London and Sydney.

The member register which represents a global and diverse multi-stakeholder community now lists 220 membership organisations from 34 countries. It includes banks, airlines, government agencies, biometric experts, privacy experts, suppliers, academics and 10 Observers representing United Nations agencies, IGOs and European Union institution 

The Biometrics Institute connects the global biometrics community. It shares knowledge with its members and key stakeholders and most importantly, develops good-practices and thought leadership for the responsible and ethical use of biometrics. 

Christine Bowles

Lead the debate with us on the
responsible use of Biometrics