Thursday, July 9, 2015

Get off my lawn, selfie biometrics d00dz!

Via Klout, I was led to a CNN/Money article that touches on the industry in which I am employed. As the article notes, MasterCard is partnering with cellphone manufacturers and banks to use fingerprint and/or facial biometrics to authorize phone-based purchases.

The article touches upon a number of serious issues that affect my industry, including spoofing, the type of data that is to be stored (image or template), and the location of the data storage (phone or server).

But I'm going to ignore the serious issues. Because biometrics is like kewl and stuff.

Don't believe me? Ask Ajay Bhalla of MasterCard:

"The new generation, which is into selfies ... I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it."

I have been in the biometric industry for a long time. So long, in fact, that I view Bhalla's statement through the prism of a song released over 30 years ago by Frank Zappa, featuring his daughter Moon Unit. If Bhalla, rather than Zappa, were writing the lyrics to "Valley Girl," they'd probably go something like this:

So, like, I wanted to get my nails done because they were like TOTALLY grody, and I went to that new place in the Westside Pavilion. So it was time to pay, and the lady said "Just take a selfie!" So like I took one, and my bank paid it and all, but my face was totally scrunched up and gross and if that picture ends up on Snapchat I will never be able to show my face at school again!

To be fair to Bhalla, he is not this generation's Ludo Cremers. Bhalla is seriously interested in ensuring that MasterCard's offerings are "at the leading edge of safety and security," and he is paying as much attention to the back-end as he is to the front-end.

But I was curious to see if anyone else has used "biometric" and "selfie" in the same sentence. And one of my favorite biometrics news sites, FindBiometrics, fused the words together in January 2014.

[B]iometric security tech company Facebanx announced the launch of its newest software solution that allows for security by way of selfie.

The solution is multifactor in nature, combining Facebanx’s face and voice biometrics to replace passwords on smartphones, tablets and PCs. According to the company the solution performs with an accuracy of 99.8 percent, measuring the user’s face metrics with a front facing camera and combining that with their voice print, captured by having the user speak aloud a four digit numerical one time password (OTP).

In passing, I should note that the multifactor aspect is key. When I started in the fingerprint identification industry many years ago, there were fingerprint companies, and then there were separate facial recognition and iris recognition companies. As time went on, many in the industry (notably Robert LaPenta) realized that future biometric applications would require multiple biometrics, and therefore these separate companies started merging together to offer multifactor solutions.


OK, enough serious stuff. Back to selfies. Despite my advanced age (when I think of Frank Zappa, I think of "Smoke on the Water"), I realize that it is necessary to inject phrases such as "selfies" into the biometric conversation. But what's next? Twerking?

However, even the terms "selfie" and "twerking" are several years old, and are probably ignored by anyone in a valued target demographic (as opposed to the non-valued ones). Now, civil libertarians worry that the FBI is on fleek turn up thirsty for info on my bae. However, professionals in the industry worry that companies are not dope to new trends, although the companies think winning.

P.S. And why did I choose to insert the Westside Pavilion into Moon's dialogue, even though it didn't exist when "Valley Girl" was released? Because of another dated reference. (Heh.)
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