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Q&A with Steve Thies, CEO

Integrated Biometrics CEO Steve Thies recently participated in two biometrics industry events: a member meeting of the Biometrics Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Global Identity Summit 2015 in Tampa, Florida. The following is a Q&A with Steve about trending issues and technologies covered at both events.

Q: With the Biometrics Institute Member Meeting being in Washington, D.C., what was its focus?

A: Integrated Biometrics is a member of the Biometric Institute, and although this meeting was located in the D.C. and drew a lot of folks from the Department of Homeland Security it was well attended by people from all over the world. There were some presentations on technology, the crying need to replace the password, and a panel discussion on the intersection of privacy and security.

Q: What was the gist of that discussion?

A: The panel discussion was really interesting; moderated by Dr. Joseph Atick, an independent consultant, there was a diverse group of business, science, industry and human rights leaders. The discussion related to how security and privacy coexist in the face of the increased use of biometric identity systems in all aspects of our lives. For example, is biometric information secure; can it be stolen, can it be used without my consent.

Q: What does that debate center on?

A: What rights does an individual have to their biometric information? What rights do businesses have to it? Companies like Facebook and Google have collected a lot of facial biometric information from people. Can they use this information for their own gain without the individuals consent? Representing the rights of people, leaders from the American Civil Liberties Union and the World Privacy Forum were in attendance and voiced the need that “consent” of the individual is required for their biometric to be used. And there was plenty of discussion surrounding the discussion that not all uses of biometric information requires consent. Another example is that retailers all have security cameras now. While originally used for security purposes, some have discovered ways to use this information for marketing and business purposes. Can they do this? Basically, can biometric information without the consent of the individual be used for business gain was one of the strong discussion points.

“The world is moving toward the elegant solution of biometrics.” – Steve Thies, CEO, Integrated Biometrics

Q: What would something like that look like?

A: Well, you’ve got companies like Facebook, Google, and retailers like let’s say Macy’s where you go into a retail store. Let’s say you always go into the sporting goods section, the retailer uses security footage to match your face against your previous visits, now all of a sudden you start getting sporting goods ads for that retailer’s products on Facebook and in Google searches. It’s basically targeted marketing on steroids; do people need to commit and consent to that, or is it that something businesses can do on their own? Can the stores use your images from the store cameras to promote, advertise and target market? It goes toward the idea of using biometrics without consent of the individual? Governments use biometric information for the good of the country; can business’ do use biometric information for the good of the business?

Q: What other topics were trending?

A: The other strong message was that passwords suck, they are dead, and while they were the best that tech had to offer ten years ago but now consumers are overwhelmed with all the windows they have to climb through using passwords. They’re hackable by bots, people forget them, and there are all sorts of problems. The main thrust of the conversation about password problems is the world is moving toward the elegant solution of biometrics.

Q: At both events, what technology trends were widely discussed?

A: With fingerprint biometrics, whether contact or contactless, as well as with voice, iris, and facial recognition the main issue was that the technology keeps advancing to be able to collect information quickly and effectively for identity purposes. Biometric enrollment needs to become more accessible easier and faster and the same with verification. We’re seeing technology getting smaller, lighter, faster, with more mobile applications built around smartphones and tablets. The biometric identity solutions that are lightweight and portable are becoming the preferred solutions of choice.

Q: What trends did you run across regarding where biometrics are being used?

A: We’re seeing a lot of emphasis in industry on collecting biometrics in the field; mobile hand held solutions and kiosks are growing rapidly; in addition there is lots of emphasis on providing more convenient solutions. The use of commercial tablets and phones, connected to sophisticated biometrics is growing rapidly. The U.S. government is working hard on improving the ports of entry. How do we assure identity on a plane through of the booking, ticketing, boarding processes without introducing delays and passenger inconvenience. We’re continuing to see the growth of biometrics for use in immigration control. The recent migration of people out of Syria into European countries is a good example where biometrics can really help. Smarter borders are required to make sure bad people (terrorists) aren’t able to move freely in this world. This is a real challenge for governments worldwide.

Q: Are there other industries trending toward implementing biometrics?

A: There’s real movement in the financial markets. Fraud is a major challenge and the use of biometrics is picking up momentum here. Financial institutions are evaluating Apple-Pay, Samsung Pay or FIDO credentials. Commercial entities are looking for convenient, secure solutions. Typically in the government space, identity is needed Homeland Security, law enforcement, voter registration, social services, immigration, border patrol, etc.…Since the advent of the internet, electronic database systems have been used to enroll and verify identity through the use of biometrics principally in government. In the recent months, we are seeing the large commercial entities studying, developing and using biometrics for client identification in the financial markets. Commercial enterprises are looking for ways to cut down on fraud and enhance the customer experience. One example of this is the way FIMPE is leading change in Mexico. We expect to see commercial databases grow as well.

Q: What kind of changes can the public expect from the future of biometrics?

A: Legacy identifications systems (ID cards, passports, driver’s licenses, etc.) are wide open to fraud. Biometrics is the principal technology being deployed to prove you are who you are. Whether its facial, fingerprints, or iris, the use of biometrics will grow. We will see loyalty programs that use fingerprints to identify you in a store’s database. For example, Visa recently released their model which entails Matching your actual biometric (your fingerprint) to the fingerprint stored on your credit card. As more and more people experience biometrics, the convenience of always having your identity with you and the knowledge that it is secure will win people over. Biometrics will eventually dominate the identity market.