By 2010, the hype around cloud computing in tech circles was already reaching fever pitch. Google CEO Eric Schmidt had coined the term ‘cloud’ four years earlier to talk about the ‘opportunity’ running IT architecture in remote servers presented. Amazon Web Services (AWS) had been around since 2002.
But there was a problem. For all the benefits cloud computing’s proponents promised – agility and cost efficiencies at a scale unimaginable with local hardware-based IT infrastructures – a majority of dubious end users saw one glaring problem. Transporting huge volumes of data to and from data centres over public internet services? Surely that was just an open invitation to hackers?
Today we’re in a similar place with biometric technology. In a world where proving your identity digitally is now a prerequisite for so many things – authorising payments, accessing online accounts and work systems, gaining security clearance to enter buildings and passing through border control when you travel – the hunt is on to find the most convenient, efficient, and streamlined ways to do it.
Biometrics is a leading contender. Compared to the rigmarole of setting up, remembering and reproducing passwords, two-factor authentication and the like, biometrics makes use of natural unique identifiers we already carry around with us on our bodies. Whether it’s fingerprints, retinas or faces, the combination of modern scanners and AI technology provides a fast, accurate and fool-proof way of confirming a person is who they say they are, for any number of different purposes.
This is why, at Acante, we have made biometrics such a big focus of our kiosk range. Across purposes ranging from secure access control for buildings, confirming arrival for appointments, proving identity for printing out documents or approving payments, biometric-enabled kiosks greatly extend the range of possible use cases for self-service and address many of the most common identification pain points.
The gold standard of personal data
But like cloud computing before it, biometric technology has one final hurdle to overcome before it can fulfil its potential – trust. And as with the cloud, the main issue people need convincing about is how secure biometric systems are. One in five people in the UK say they are concerned about potential misuse of biometric data if they submit their fingerprints or retina scan for use. Just about the same proportion specify concerns about their data being lost or stolen,
These are legitimate questions for people to ask. Biometric data – a person’s unique physical attributes rendered in bytes – is of enormous potential value to cybercriminals. Getting hold of it would represent the gold standard of identity theft, vastly expanding criminal capabilities to commit fraud by impersonating other people.
So before people buy into biometrics, it’s understandable that they should want to know where their data is stored, and how it is kept secure.
Over time, the cloud computing industry was able to prove conclusively that, not only could it transport data back and forth between users and data centres securely at scale, but that it was intrinsically more secure than traditional on-premise IT architectures.
Not every company can find (or afford) the level of cybersecurity expertise required to keep their systems safe from the ever-evolving threat of hackers. With the leading data centre operators and cloud service providers, you get the economy of scale. Indeed, the cloud industry has been a leading source of innovation and progress in digital security over the past 10 years and more, pioneering solutions made readily available to all subscribers.
Biometrics will also benefit from these advances, as the most stable, secure and scalable way to store such data lies in the cloud. But the discussions required to demonstrate this to the public at large remain on-going. In particular, we support the recommendation of the UK’s former commissioner on biometrics that the government should set approved use of biometric technologies and data on a legislative footing.
As we’ve seen with the GDPR, when issues surrounding digital privacy and security are subject to clear regulation, public confidence and engagement increases.