Biometrics year 2018 – Would data breaches dampen progress?

As my last post of 2017, I discussed the successes of Aadhaar in India and highlighted that it could be a good model for other emerging economies to follow. However, in hindsight, I should have also discussed the risks to such a system.


In a world where large scale data breaches are discovered on a regular basis, there were headlines that Aadhaar database of 1 Billion users was available for about $10. Further investigation also revealed that there could have been a widespread misuse of this security lapse. While I have been researching on the progress of Biometrics initiatives across the world, I have come across some interesting trends and progress worth highlighting.

Over the last couple of years, the launch of fingerprint scanning, facial recognition and iris scanners have all been introduced within mobile devices. Relying on these biometric identifiers seems far more reliable and customer friendly than using password based authentication. As a result these technologies are used across various industries, governments, banks and even in hospitals.

While Biometrics identification has different use cases across sectors, in Financial Services it is mostly used by consumers who can afford expensive phones. Since the launch of iPhone’s Face Id feature, Tesco and TSB banks have already launched the capability for users to make payments through their mobile applications. Malaysia’s largest bank, Maybank recently announced a Face Id and voice recognition service for its customers.

Authentication and protecting consumer data is at the level it needs to be across the entire bank.

Bob Reany, EVP of Identity solutions at Mastercard

While Biometrics has been a buzzword within the Fintech industry for sometime now, large scale adoption across the globe is yet to be seen. Firms like Mastercard and Visa have launched major programmes to build the platform necessary for Biometric authentication. Bob Reany, EVP of Identity solutions at Mastercard, led the development of Selfie Pay capability at the firm. Mastercard are now looking at how Biometric data can be held securely, while simultaneously scaling the platform. They are also developing an industry standard for Biometrics data called 3D Secure 2.0.

At Visa the focus is on keeping consumer data secure. To that effect, they are building out an enterprise-scale authentication platform to delivering great consumer experience across all touch points within the retail bank, online and mobile channels, and payments.

Humaniq, a Blockchain based startup,  use biometric information such as voice and location technologies to replace signatures and conventional identity. Through facial recognition software, the application offers an alternative form of identification, allowing users to work, borrow, lend, save and pay. Humaniq also allows many (about 200+) firms .

With Banking 4.0 it is about creating communities and Blockchain is the perfect architecture for this. 

Alex Fork, CEO Humaniq

The services offered by Humaniq are for communities delivered through a mobile platform. It offers social messaging and a model that delivers a reputational score, to encourage users to transact using their platform. About 1.5 Billion people in the world are unbanked due to no formal identification as per World Bank 2016 estimates.

The focus for Humaniq is Asia, Africa and Latin America. They are also planning to use their platform well beyond just providing Financial Services – as a humanitarian programme, freelance employment, and healthcare.

With the traction across the globe in cracking the economic identity problem using biometrics, there might be more instances of data breaches. However hope is that these technology rich platforms would soon start viewing cyber risk as one of their top priorities.

Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Fintech thought leader and an investor. 

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