SINGAPORE--Governments and industry players should adopt a more user-centric approach toward biometric systems, industry experts said.
Speaking Friday at the inaugural Singapore meeting organized by the Biometrics Institute, David Chadwick, Unisys' director for law enforcement and public safety in the Asia-Pacific region, noted that police forces around the world were the first to adopt biometrics such as finger-printing but many are lagging in new technology adoption.
For example, while digital photography has caught on with consumers, many law enforcement agencies are still using film photography as "physical forms" of investigation documents are still appreciated, he pointed out.
That said, digital systems have been developed for facial recognition and photo data archiving purposes. However, many organizations face challenges in adopting and integrating these systems due to poor usability and the absence of an "open Web system", said Chadwick. Such system acts as a focal point for various biometrics systems to merge, thereby increasing user access convenience.
And while it is essential to improve system design for users, community acceptance to providing personal data is also key to widespread biometric adoption, said Suzanne Lockhart, senior government business development manager of Datacard Group.
"Some countries are not receptive to biometrics because of cultural differences," she explained. "In Australia for example, finger prints were only required when someone was arrested, therefore there was the association of providing such information as 'criminal' or 'victimization', which made people adverse to handing over personal data."
However, with events happening around the world, and better information getting through to the public, there is increasingly acceptance of biometrics Down Under, she added.
Biometrics Institute Manager Isabelle Moeller said the organization is working to get people to be more aware of the circumstances under which they provide such information. Noting that most nightspots in Australia have implemented biometrics to curb violence and patrons have offered their finger prints very willingly, the executive said the Institute is hoping that patrons will ask why they are doing so, and for what purpose.
"If you make it convenient, people will give you their finger prints easily, but should you? Biometrics Institute has outreach programs to raise privacy awareness, and to [encourage individuals to] ask questions as to why their personal data is required," she said.
Social media killing police undercover work
According to Chadwick, keeping up with technologies also has a downside for law enforcement agencies.
The advent of social media has meant that almost everyone has a footprint in the digital world, yet this may mean that police undercover work will be completely impossible in 10 years' time, he said.
Criminal gangs, he explained, are increasingly sophisticated in terms of employing biometrics and social media to check on a new member's history before admitting them. It would be difficult for police officers wishing to infiltrate into gangs to create a completely new identity, as that would mean a "clean" social media profile, which signals a giveaway.
"Social media presence of about 10 years is what these guys are looking for out, and if you don't have them then something is wrong," he explained.
Chadwick quoted the example of Hell's Angels syndicate, a motorcycle gang which has employed facial recognition in recruiting potential members. The syndicate has a photo database of images taken where gang members hang out, and will run a prospective candidate's picture against the database. If there are matches, the likelihood that the candidate is accepted would be higher.
For that reason, social media presence is also an important consideration when assessing police officers for undercover work, he added. Candidates with a very strong online presence are typically not suitable.