Private sector facial recognition gaining acceptance?

Face-recognition system unlocks doors at Manhattan complex (Fox – New York)

A camera takes 5 pictures of each resident’s face. One is selected then it and other info about the resident are stored in the system database. Once a tenant tries to get through their building’s security door, a high-tech scanner reads their face. If the system recognizes the face, the door is unlocked in a matter of seconds.

This story is much more about public acceptance of facial recognition than face-rec technology. The technology for this sort of application had been around for years.

Falling prices might have something to do with it as well. Either way, it’s good to see facial recognition getting some traction in the private market. A positive return on investment for these deployments depends on public acceptance and increasing security without sacrificing convenience or vice versa.

More Brazilian rubber-fingered ghosts

This time it’s the port of Paranaguá (Portuguese – Folha de S. Paulo)

A Federal Police (PF) operation Monday at the port of Paranaguá found “silicone fingers” that were used by employees to forge their attendance and receive credit for days not worked.

The 25 “fingers” were tailor-made, reproducing the fingers of 14 employees. They were stored in desks at the port, labeled with the name of each worker. Even a tray (ed. mold?) was found.

Each of the workers have worked there for at least eight years, according to PF.

Federal Police are investigating whether there are other people involved in the fraud.*

According to their site, the port at Paranaguá is the largest bulk port in latin America.

Paranaguá port                                                                                                                 ©Digital Globe & Microsoft Corporation

See Brazilian ghost doctors have rubber fingers for a more in-depth analysis of why forcing time-and-attendance fraud into the realm of rubber fingers is actually a good thing.

Long story short, every person who participated in creating a facsimile of their fingerprint has also had to create a lot of evidence that they participated in a conspiracy to defraud their employer.

The fraud kit in this most recent case can be seen at the Folha link.

*Translation from Google & Bing translation services with an assist by me. For now, robots still have a hard time with Brazilian Portuguese. I sympathize.

It’s official: GALAXY S5 has a fingerprint reader

Spain, February 24, 2014 – Samsung Electronics today announced the fifth generation of the Galaxy S series, the Galaxy S5, designed for what matters most to consumers. The new Galaxy S5 offers consumers a refined experience with innovation of essential features for day-to-day use.

Essential device protection
The Galaxy S5 is IP67 dust and water resistant. It also offers a Finger Scanner, providing a secure, biometric screen locking feature and a seamless and safe mobile payment experience to consumers. The Ultra Power Saving Mode turns the display to black and white, and shuts down all unnecessary features to minimize the battery consumption.

The device will be available globally through Samsung’s retail channels, e-commerce and carriers on April.

More information is available at the Samsung site here.

See also this video.

The fingerprint scanner comes in for a couple of mentions in the first half.

See also:

Nilekani out at UIDAI

Aadhaar loses its unique identity, Nandan Nilekani to quit (Financial Express)

ique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani on Friday said he would resign from his job by March end to join mainstream politics and contest the Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket, causing many to wonder if his absence at the helm would derail the Aadhaar project, vital for slashing India’s subsidy expenditure and increasing the efficacy of welfare programmes.

Also from the Financial Express…

Editorial: End of Aadhaar?

See also this post from September 2011 for some background on Nandan Nilekani and the UID project: India: Is UID Under Siege?. At the time, we said…

Nandan Nilekani is the animating spirit of the UID project. He knows technology through education and experience among the founding generation of Unisys. He knows management, evidenced by his rise to become CEO of that firm. He knows India (inasmuch as India is “knowable”), having attended Indian schools at every level of his education and having lived in several places there. And he knows government through his service on various committees and advisory groups. He is, perhaps, the only person capable of pulling this off.

Hopefully, as he has indicated elsewhere, the UID project no longer requires Nandan Nilekani to sustain it.

Schools, technology, and privacy

Scrutiny in California for Software in Schools (NY Times)

A leading California lawmaker plans to introduce state legislation on Thursday that would shore up privacy and security protections for the personal information of students in elementary through high school, a move that could alter business practices across the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry.

The bill would prohibit education-related websites, online services and mobile apps for kindergartners through 12th graders from compiling, using or sharing the personal information of those students in California for any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance.

This strikes me as a much better approach to technology in schools than what Florida state Senate is contemplating.

As we’ve mentioned before, the issue of privacy in schools is very much bigger than biometrics. Schools also keep academic records, behavioral records, medical records, socio-economic assessments for administering school lunch programs, home address information, counseling notes and a ton of other information that is much more sensitive than a fingerprint template consisting of a string text characters that cannot be used to learn anything about a student. If schools are unable to keep data secure, biometric template information is the last thing that should concern parents.

Too often, news accounts use biometrics as the ultimate example of private information and the hook on which to hang all sorts of fears the reader is supposed to imagine — i.e. part of the problem — when they are actually part of the solution. Because biometrics are far superior to usernames and passwords for securing personal information, why isn’t all electronic access to student information should be controlled biometrically?

Florida moves to ban school biometrics

This is a biometric database

Senate panel votes to ban biometric data collection in schools (Florida Current)

A key Senate committee voted to stop public school systems from collecting “biometric” data on students, despite warnings that unplugging the computerized systems will waste money and make it harder to move hundreds of kids through lunchroom lines.

“These are children,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange. “There is no reason to scan a kid. Just because the government can do this is no reason the government should be doing this.”

I haven’t read the bill but school yearbook companies, school ID card suppliers, and school photographers might want to make a few calls to the 850 area code. Photos of faces are biometrics, after all.

More posts on biometrics in schools.

Outright technology bans are easy to understand, but they often have unintended consequences and seldom benefit large organizations. It’s better to develop a solid understanding of the appropriate use of a given technology and how it furthers an organization’s mission.

All is proceeding as we have foreseen

Windows Phone 8.1 with fingerprint support, UI customizations — A new WP 8.1 SDK leak points to fingerprint scanner support in the next OS update, which should put Windows Phone level with iOS and Android. (GSM Arena)

Samsung’s next flagship phone will feature a swipe fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button (uSwitch)

April 22, 2014: LG G3 specs leak points to integrated fingerprint scanner (Trusted Reviews)

The prediction to which this post’s title refers can be found here.

Leap-frogging in Nigeria

Here’s another example of biometrics being used to leap-frog the technologies and methods other countries have used in the past to build an ID infrastructure. Even if the Nigerian government had the resources to attempt a paper-heavy, labor-intensive duplication of the systems some countries built in the early twentieth century, it isn’t at all clear that it could produce a better outcome than cheaper biometrics.

NIGERIA: Banks to Start Biometric Customer Registration on Friday (Daily Times)

“There will be teething problems, but we will learn from it. The biometric initiative is being pursued by the Bankers’ Committee,” the Access Bank boss said.

The Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said the biometric system, when fully operational, would help to improve credit in the economy and boost the nation’s macro- economy.

Okoroafor said, “Nigeria runs on cash; there is no identity. We don’t know who is who. We are now going into identity confirmation. We can now create a credit system that will power our economy.

“Banks don’t want to lend because of identity issue. We want to move Nigeria from cash system to credit system that has identity.”

Passwords can be tricky on mobile devices

30% of organisations to use biometric security on mobile devices by 2016 (

Almost a third of businesses plan to use biometric authentication for mobile devices as part of their bring your own device (BYOD) programmes by 2016, according to research firm Gartner.

The analyst firm explained that BYOD programmes have caused potential security problems for IT directors within enterprises and data that is protected by complex passwords and security measures on employees’ PCs is not guarded as well on their mobile devices. As a result, Gartner expects that 30 per cent of organisations will implement biometric authentication on employees’ mobile devices, up from five per cent today.

I came across an interesting problem the other day. I had to change an important password to access certain critical work functions. Being a conscientious type, I use good password hygeine: mixed case, numbers and punctuation with the help of a random password generator. So far so good.

When I generate the password, I don’t really care what it is or notice the characters. I copy and paste it into the web page asking for it. So far, so good. But one of the things controlled by the password I recently had to change is my ability to check email on my phone. No problem, I find the password (let’s say it was 5=EtH!duWaz8) and I couldn’t find an equal sign in any of my phone’s keyboard layers to save my life.

My work-around involved emailing it to another email account I can get on my phone and doing a copy-paste job. Menial tasks should be easy, they shouldn’t require as much creativity to accomplish.

Mobile biometrics can help.

I wonder what the sensor looks like

Body odor passes smell test as biometric (ZD Net) — Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid are exploring a new form of biometric authentication – body odor.

See also: The challenges confronting any new biometric modality

I suspect that any definable aspect of the human anatomy could be used as a biometric identifier — in instances where teeth are all that is known about an individual, they are used for high confidence identification — I’m afraid that, for the foreseeable future, the cards are stacked against any new biometric modality catching on in any big way.

The reasons for this are both scientific (research based) and economic (market based).

On the science side, a good biometric modality must be: unique, durable, and easily measurable. If any of these are missing, widespread use for ID management isn’t in the cards. If something is unique and durable but isn’t easily measurable, it can still be useful but it isn’t going to become ubiquitous in automated (or semi-automated) technology. Teeth and DNA fit this model. Teeth have been used to determine the identity of dead bodies with a high degree of certainty for a long time, but we aren’t going to be biting any sensors to get into our computers any time soon — or ever. Likewise with DNA.

There is also the challenge of proving that a modality is in fact unique, durable and easily measurable which requires a whole lot of experimental data and (especially regarding uniqueness) a healthy dose of statistical analysis.

more at the link

But isn’t the school yearbook a biometric database?

FLORIDA: Lawmakers to consider banning biometrics in schools (Miami Herald)

“We’ve been able to get kids through a lunch line for decades,” said state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who brought the idea to the Florida Senate. “Why do we need to take their biometric information when we know there is the potential for identity theft?”

But the idea may meet resistance from local school boards, some of which want the flexibility to create their own policies.

“Biometrics is coming,” said Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, who spearheaded an effort to create a local biometrics policy this month. “It exists in the market. It will exist in our schools. It may end up being a viable way to ensure there isn’t fraud.”

IT-Lex has a more useful elucidation of what’s going on in Florida Bills Target The Use Of Biometrics In Schools.

One proposal requires that those proposing biometric solutions (1) explain the type of information being collected, how it is collected and stored, and the purposes for which the information is being used; (2) require written permission before collection; (3) ensure that the information is used only for identification or fraud prevention purposes; (4) ensure that the information is not disclosed to another governmental entity or a third party without written permission; (5) provide for the protection from unauthorized disclosure; and (6) require the encryption of all biometric information.

The other is written so broadly that it could apply to school yearbooks and photo ID’s.

It isn’t clear which one the legislative committee voted on today.