There is a tremendous amount of misleading and inaccurate reporting on the topic of demographic bias in biometric identification systems, especially regarding facial recognition technology. Part of the problem is that there isn’t one thing that is “facial recognition technology”. At the core of any biometric system is a matching algorithm. The definitive resource on the topic of demographic bias in biometrics is the NIST Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) Part 3 Demographic Effects report. Warning: this 82-page report is not an easy read and you really should read parts 1 and 2 first to get the context.

The latest…

Back when I was a competitive skydiver, we would often video tape our training jumps so we could analyze them later. That meant an additional skydiver, with a video camera attached to his helmet, would jump out with you, and record the jump.

Oh, that helmet is a great look.

The nickname for the camera was “The eye in the sky that cannot lie.” This came up often because skydives go by very quickly and human memory is not great, especially when people are under stress. …

In the age of COVID-19, does it make us safer?

With the advent of COVID-19, the topic of fever scanning has exploded on the Internet. It’s a popular topic in the media and vendors are developing new solutions to capitalize on the opportunity. I’m going to explain what temperature scanning is (and isn’t!) and give you a basic understanding of how it works so you can make your own decision about if it’s worth it.

Fever Scanning 101

The core concept is something we are all familiar with — using a thermometer to see if someone has an elevated body temperature (EBT). An…

An Amazon delivery driver in Delaware was filmed by a Ring doorbell as he reacted to snacks that were left for him and the video went viral. The kindness of the homeowner and the driver’s delight was a fun diversion and a reminder of how thoughtful people can be. However, the driver didn’t know he was being filmed until the video went viral. Neither the homeowner or the driver expected the video to go viral and they weren’t prepared when the identity of both were revealed to the internet.

This raises some ethical questions: Should the homeowner have gotten consent…

There is some interesting news in the world of biometric identification and privacy this week. The Department of Homeland Security submitted a proposal to expand the Biometric Exit Program to include US Citizens and green card holders. This is an interesting example of how our system provides oversight to the various government organizations who use technology.

Photo by Kylie Anderson on Unsplash

What is the Biometric Exit Program?

I have written about the Biometric Exit Program in detail before, but in summary it is a DHS program that uses biometrics to track when visa holders (foreigners who have applied for and gotten permission to visit the United States) enter and leave the…

It may surprise many people but the Walt Disney Corporation is an enthusiastic and early adopter of biometric technology. All the way back in 1996, Disney added a magnetic stripe to their park pass. Instead of the bar-coded laminate photo IDs traditionally used, the new pass had no photo and minimal printed information. The magnetic stripe stored pass information plus it added one new piece of information: a biometric “finger scan” (fingerprint).

Photo by Patrícia Ferreira on Unsplash

When a guest presented the pass at a turnstile, they were asked to insert the pass into a reader, and then to make a “peace sign” with their…

It wasn’t until I started learning about computer vision that I realized that human vision is just really amazing. Because we grow up doing it naturally, we don’t tend to give much thought to how we see the world. We don’t think of vision as something we do. We walk around and the world is just “out there”. What’s so interesting about that?

How Do Babies See?

Think about the first time a baby opens its eyes. The eyes are closed until around 26 weeks to allow the retina to develop but after that the eyes will start to blink in the womb. When…

And why are you being photographed at airports all of a sudden?

Some Background: What is a Visa?

Generally, any foreign national wanting to visit the United States must obtain a visa. A travel visa is “conditional authorization granted by a country to a foreigner, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that country.” There are many different kinds of visas. Visas include limits on the how long you can stay, where you can go inside the country, the dates you can enter, the number of permitted visits or an individual’s right to work.

United States Non-Immigrant Visa

So the key point here is that most foreign nationals have to apply for and receive a visa before they are allowed…

This year, Oakland and San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts, all banned the government’s use of facial recognition technology and others are ‘pausing’ its use. This decision is being talked about a lot and it’s easy to see why. The technology has been growing in popularity in recent years and San Francisco was the first major US city to block its use. …

Does Anyone Really Care About Privacy?

When any new technology is developed and put into use, there is a delay between implementation of the technology and implementation of policies and best practices of how the new technology should be used. That’s normal. But biometric identification technology really isn’t new any more. As a staunch privacy advocates, we’ve been waiting for the general public to start paying attention to what data various companies and government agencies are collecting and what they are doing with that data and to start clamoring for restrictions on who has the data and how it is used.

And it keeps not happening.

Mary Haskett

Mary Haskett is a founder of Blink Identity. She works with biometric identity technology and is interested in online privacy. Also a beekeeper.

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