This is the third of three blogs about technologies to support contact-free use of public transport.
The radio again – I hear that the Transport Minister for England had just reported that there have been fewer than 400 fines for people failed to wear face covering on public transport. More than 115,000 travellers have been stopped and reminded that face coverings are mandatory, and 9,500 people prevented from travelling.
The rise of facial recognition technology and the erosion of privacy
In the 2002 movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise’s character has his eyes surgically replaced so he can avoid being identified by the all-pervasive retina scanning system that the state uses to track people… and of course, uses to show targeted ads to people. This is a rather dystopian view of the broad application of biometrics technology. However, judging by a lawsuit targeting Macy’s for their use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology in their stores, it seems that staying anonymous in the bricks and mortar world is becoming a little more like the movie. Whilst you may not require surgery, you may soon require something akin to glasses and a fake beard to avoid being tracked. The issue here is that Clearview AI has been scraping images from publicly viewable sources on the web for a while, enabling them to create a database of facial biometrics against which to match captured facial images. Amongst the sources of this data are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Vimeo, with some of these companies having sent cease and desist letters to Clearview AI for breach of their terms of service. The aim it seems is for Clearview AI to create a one-to-many facial recognition solution that can identify an individual from only an image of their face from anyone who is in a photo or video on the web. Based on a report on Buzzfeed, they were working with over 2000 companies as of February 2020, and they are probably not alone, so perhaps we should be concerned.
As if lockdown were not bad enough, many of us are now faced with spending the next year with children unable to spend their Gap Year travelling the more exotic parts of the world. The traditional jobs within the entertainment and leisure sectors that could keep them busy, and paid for their travel, are no longer available. The opportunity to spend time with elderly relatives depends on the results of their last COVID-19 test.
I recognize that we are a lucky family to have such ‘problems’. However, they are representative of the issues we all face as we work hard to bring our families, companies and organizations out of lockdown. When can we open up our facilities to our employees, customers and visitors? What protection should we offer those employees that must or choose to work away from home? What is the impact of the CEO travelling abroad to meet new employees or customers, sign that large deal or deliver the keynote at that trade fair in Las Vegas?
We live in interesting times. Whatever you think about the Coronavirus situation, social distancing will test our ability to rely on digital services. And one place where digital services continue to struggle is onboarding – establishing who your customer is in the first place.
One of the main reasons for this, is that regulated industries such as financial services are required to perform strict “know your customer” checks when onboarding customers and risk substantial fines in the event of compliance failings. Understandably then, financial service providers need to be cautious in adopting new technology, especially where the risks are not well understood or where regulators are yet to give clear guidance.
Fortunately, a lot of work is being done. This includes the development of new identification solutions and an increasing recognition that this is a problem that needs to be solved.
The Paypers has recently published its “Digital Onboarding and KYC Report 2020”. It is packed full of insights into developments in this space, features several Consult Hyperion friends and is well worth a look.
You can download the report here: https://thepaypers.com/reports/digital-onboarding-and-kyc-report-2020
It’s been a while since I first read that British Airways (BA) was going to introduce facial biometrics for boarding international flights at Heathrow. I don’t recall going through biometric gates for flights, and I fly a lot, so it must still be in limited deployment. Hurry up BA – this is a great example of biometrics as a convenience technology.
If you been in a BA boarding queue recently, you’ll know how convenient it is to board using the QR code on your phone and how inconvenient it is to fumble around getting your passport out to show at the gate and how annoying it is to be in the line behind people who put the phone down to rummage around in a bag to find the passport and then have to mess around unlocking the phone again because it locked while they were rummaging. So, if BA can do the passport scan and face capture away from the boarding gate they can make for a much smoother boarding process.
Of course the boarding pass has to be real. I remember watching an episode of “Britain on the Fiddle” about boarding cards. The program, which was excellent by the way, included reports of ID fraud that I found fascinating, but also featured Mickey Pitt, an engaging cigarette smuggler who masterminded an operation that used fake boarding passes to get in and out of airports undetected. Perhaps we can fix that problem with the same technology.
According to International Airport Review, a scan of the customer’s face is recorded when they travel through security, and when they arrive at the gate, their face is matched with this representation when they present their boarding pass. Thus you can get on the plane just using the boarding pass in your Apple Wallet and you can leave your passport in your bag.
I hope Terminal 5 will move to remote capture for all flights. Surely as an Executive Club member I should be able to have them capture a picture of my passport at home using Au10tix or similar and store it with my account so that next time I go to the airport I can breeze through the boarding process: they should get rid of the “priority” boarding line (which on many BA flights seems to include almost all passengers) and replace it with a mobile/biometric line.
If we analyse the problem by breaking it down using our identity model, the three-domain model (3DID), we can see there are three separate problems that need to be solved using the technologically effectively:
- identifying the person travelling (we need to bind a passport);
- authenticating that the boarding pass is in the hand of the correct person; and
- authorising the person with the boarding pass to go through the gate on to the plane.
The way to do this is, in my opinion, is to create a digital identity for the purposes of travelling (the travel ID) and to bind this identity to a mundane identity by linking it to a specific passport. Then British Airways can bind this identity to my Executive Club by creating a BA virtual identity, Delta can create a Delta identity and so on. Now, when I make a booking, the booking is connected to my BA ID.
That BA ID could, of course, contain either my face (in the form of a biometric template) or it could contain some other biometric that is optimised for speed and convenience at the airport. Finger vein, is a great example of a technology that has been around for ever and is tried and tested. You can’t take a picture of my finger vein when I’m walking down the road and then use it to pretend to be me, I have to walk up to a scanner and then physically insert my finger, thus consenting to the authentication.
That way, we could restructure the airport experience around technology instead of electronic simulations of paper. In this way, I can check in for the flight on my phone and then put my phone away. When I get to the airport, I go through security (at which point my face is checked against the passport photo in my BA ID) and then go to experience the Terminal 5 shopping experience. When it is time to board the plane, I put my finger into a scanner at the gate and off I go.
Consult Hyperion worked on a few projects looking at finger vein technology for UK banks a while ago – and it featured in our Tomorrow’s Transactions blog back in 2007 because Hitachi and JCB were playing around with finger vein payments. If you’d like to know more about our model for identity (3DID) or would like to hear about our experiences with secure biometric technology, drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org