Biometrics Power Major Public, Private Sector Digital ID Projects

By Chris Burt

Biometrics are playing a prominent role in the passwordless movement, digital wallets and national ID programs making headlines this week. Both Thales and Idemia are involved in both EU digital wallets pilots and rumored interest in a lucrative contract in DRC.  A FIDO Alliance event forecast a big year ahead for passkeys, just as Socure joined the group. Digital identity evolution in Kenya and the UK also made the most-read articles on Biometric Update.

Top biometrics news of the week

The UK government has revealed plans to charge private digital ID providers for certification to the trust framework, but largely cover other costs of the system through DCMS’ governance function. The comments came among its response to the 270 comments received in consultation on the Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework.

A contract for a biometric ID card will soon be tendered by DR Congo, with an estimated $428 million value. Thales, Idemia and Veridos are rumored to be preparing bids, and Pangea and Dermalog have won multi-million dollar contracts in the country over the past year. The project was put on hold in 2020.

Kenya’s new government has announced plans to clear its backlog of applications for biometric passports, having received 50,000 blank booklets and with 200,000 more on the way. It also advanced plans to speed up citizenship and residence document issuance and develop its UPI as a birth-to-death identity system.

The pilots for the EU Digital Identity Wallet include a series of consortia made up of big-name technology providers like Visa, Idemia, and in two different cases, Thales. Aligning the levels of assurance provided across the continent could be a stumbling block, however, as could fragmentation.

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The OpenWallet Foundation is set to launch an open-source engine for building digital wallets, and discussed its plans in a Linux Foundation Europe panel at the World Economic Forum. The OWF has grown from 3 to 350 member organizations, providing some hope that it will be able to meet its goal of ensuring digital identity interoperability.

Passkeys were in the spotlight at the Cybersecurity Policy Forum hosted by Better Identity, the FIDO Alliance and ITRC, where panelists suggested they could begin eliminating passwords for users in a range of different environments and applications this year. With MFA bypass attacks on the rise, FIDO ED and CMO Andrew Shikiar sees consumers and businesses like moving towards local biometrics.

The newest members of the FIDO Alliance are Socure and AuthenticID, which get a chance to contribute to the passwordless authentication group’s identity verification standards. Bitwarden, meanwhile, has increased its participation in FIDO to the sponsor level.

The use of facial authentication by Russia’s financial institutions is explored in a guest post by a trio of authors from Metrica B’s Inoface brand. Biometrics are being used by over 200 banks in Russia for access control, branch security, payments and loyalty programs, they write.

UNICEF Director Cornelius Williams said during the latest ID4Africa livecast that 20 African nations are on track to meet UN SDG 16.9 by issuing universal legal identity for all by 2030. He was speaking during a conversation on civil registration that also included UNECA’s Oliver Chinganya, who called out the need to put an economic value to civil registration data.

The latest annual report from the World Bank’s ID4D initiative estimates that there were 850 million people remaining without “official” identification in the world as of 2021; a little over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The totals represent progress since 2018, but it has been uneven.

Startup Wink has raised $3 million in seed funding to put facial authentication for passwordless access control not just onto phones, but also POS terminals, IoT devices, and automobile consoles. The company has been rapidly raising money to advance its vision for decentralized biometrics.

Please let us know about any articles, interviews or other content you think we should share with the people in biometrics and the digital identity community either in the comments below or through social media.

Source: Biometric Update

Chris Burt is the editor of Biometric Update. He has also written nonfiction about information technology, dramatic arts, sports culture, and fantasy basketball, as well as fiction about a doomed astronaut. He lives in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @AFakeChrisBurt.

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