Dignari, a member of the Government Technology & Services Coalition, a non-profit organization for government contractors in the homeland security market, recently attended Identity Week America 2022 and has reported on some of the sessions:
Innovating Identity Management Solutions
David Pekoske, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), opened this session with an insightful discussion, touching on how threats to the transportation system are ever-evolving—with the environment we find ourselves in today being radically different than it was just five years ago.
From advancements in 1:1 and 1:n facial biometric matching to efforts to streamline and improve the overall identity screening process, TSA has emphasized enhancing security efficiency, effectiveness, and passenger privacy. As Administrator Pekoske noted, however, these advancements require a focus on being as transparent as possible with the public on how their information is utilized and the safeguards in place to protect sensitive data.
We also learned about how TSA sees itself as an innovator when it comes to identity management solutions, including plans to develop and promote an “Innovation Doctrine” with a mission to foster an environment of innovation and elicit feedback from passengers and stakeholders. Among these efforts is a goal to implement “one-stop security” to provide inbound U.S. travelers with a streamlined screening process before arrival. While universal adoption of such a system is still years away, TSA has requested congressional authority to initiate a pilot program for this technology.
Remote Identity Validation
Presented by Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) Director Arun Vemury and Deputy Director Jonathan Prisby, this session focused on how the DHS Biometric & Identity Technology Center (BI-TC) leverages the directorate’s subject matter expertise and capabilities related to facial biometrics and identity management.
Arun and Jonathan discussed how the BI-TC isn’t focused on facilitating the adoption of new technologies but instead seeks to advise agencies on how biometric and identity management technologies work, where they can be used, best practices for their use, and to help internal and external stakeholders make better-informed decisions.
They also discussed the efforts of the BI-TC to support its mission through “non-adversarial engagement” with industry partners—encouraging companies to submit new algorithms and other technical advancements for testing, with the agency providing anonymized analysis and reports to guide the industry forward without penalizing companies for trying new approaches to achieve shared end goals. In short, their goal is to help the industry identify areas working well while encouraging them to take things to the next level. At the same time, they are also looking to better engage with academia to have them address existing gaps in systems and propose viable solutions to fixing them.
Identity is Everything
One of the most intriguing sessions focused on the rapidly advancing landscape of decentralized identity. Presented by Heather Dahl, CEO of Indicio, attendees gained insights into this open-standards-based framework that utilizes digital identifiers and verifiable credentials that are self-owned and enable trusted data exchange.
These digital identifiers can include nearly any data point valued or associated with an individual, including education and medical records, employment history, banking information, life events, and familial relationships. A key differentiator with the decentralized identity framework is that the end user controls access to their data, giving individuals authority to determine the data to share and with whom.
By combining biographic and demographic data—and moving control of that data to the individual end user—the decentralized identity framework provides six key benefits: privacy, transparency, control, efficiency, risk reduction, and increased speed. This linking of multiple trusted data points builds additional trust in all data used, making the verifiable credentials even stronger when deployed in a Trusted Digital Ecosystem. With such a system, we can positively identify—and repeatedly verify—any given data point using the “inherent trust and immutability of the blockchain ledger.”
Biometrics in the Travel Industry and Impacts of Potential Legislation
In this panel session featuring Mark Van de Water of Baker Donelson and Thales’ Tony Lo Brutto and Amol Deshmukh, attendees learned about the challenges biometric and emerging technology companies face regarding the regulatory and legislative process–which is inherently and painstakingly slow.
Despite more than 100 bills being introduced in the current 117th Congress alone, they noted, none of these bills have gained traction or made it to the floor for a vote. Despite the lack of movement, most bills have similar common denominators: transparency, protecting PII, developing a regulatory framework that is conscious of privacy, and accountability/sustainability.
Another key point from the panel was that the time is now for the federal government to provide overarching guardrails to create a consistent model for the industry. They argued that the action must be taken now, as federal preemption is needed to counter the “hodgepodge of state legislative action” that puts companies in precarious positions.
The panel also discussed how it is imperative that the travel industry focus on building trust when it comes to leveraging biometric technology to improve the overall passenger experience and maintaining that trust. Suppose the public loses confidence in just one platform, program, or technology. In that case, it can have a far-reaching ripple effect, leading to mistrust of similar products or platforms from completely different brands and/or vendors.
Innovation at the Borders
During the Day 2 keynote session from Diane Sabatino, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), attendees learned about CBP’s efforts to leverage facial biometrics and mobile technology through expanded relationships with industry partners. Through such efforts, CBP has been actively engaged in expanding its Seamless Travel Experience and using facial biometrics for both domestic and international passenger exits.
With increased collaboration among internal and external stakeholders, CBP has focused its recent efforts on security and facilitation through Identity as a Service to create a seamless “curb-to-gate” traveler experience where the use of biometrics will entirely replace the use of physical documents. The session further highlighted CBP’s concerted efforts to improve privacy and security regarding biometrics, noting the importance of addressing privacy-related concerns transparently to build public trust and greater adoption of the technology.
DEAC Sabatino also discussed the expansion of next-generation Global Entry kiosks which will be able to process travelers in approximately 3.5 seconds—significantly improving the efficiency of the process while simultaneously providing CBP Officers with increased ability to focus efforts on roving enforcement and other activities. She also touched on CBP efforts to provide field officers with the tools and resources to effectively do their jobs and explore functional solutions to using non-intrusive inspection biometrics in car lanes at land border crossings.
Digital Identity at the Border
Another key session at Identity Week featured Matthew Davies, Executive Director – Admissibility & Passenger Programs, CBP Office of Field Operations, along with representatives from Carnival Cruise Lines, Vision-Box, and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which focused on the use of facial biometrics in the sea environment.
Executive Director Davies noted how CBP is working to implement an Advanced Passenger Exchange program that would establish data-sharing agreements to ensure systems’ interoperability across travel modes, industry partners, and international agency counterparts. As part of these efforts, CBP and stakeholders are working with the World Customs Organization to establish international standards by examining disparate customs procedures in different countries and finding commonalities. The goal is to develop an integrated system that combines passenger data and information that can cross-reference traveler manifests across modes.
Donald Brown, CLIA Vice President of Maritime Policy, also highlighted the tangential benefits of facial biometrics on embarking/debarking processes—noting how the technology allows for decreasing physical contact while increasing the efficiency of the process and the ability of CBP Officers to focus on roving enforcement efforts, which proves to be a win-win for passengers, CBP, and the cruise lines operating the terminals.