Biometrics for Safeguarding: How Technology Is Enabling Kindness During Coronavirus

safeguarding during COVID-19

By Andrew Bud, Founder and CEO of iProov

iProov is currently providing biometric authentication services free of charge to start-ups that are working on solutions to assist the COVID-19 crisis.

A number of projects are already underway, using our Genuine Presence Assurance technology to great effect.

One area where we’re seeing a lot of focus is safeguarding.

There has been a tremendous surge of kindness, generosity and community spirit around the world, as people offer their time and resources to help others in need.

But criminal behaviour is never far behind. You only need to take a quick glance at the news to find  examples, such as this 92 year-old woman robbed by thieves who persuaded her that her neighbour had the virus.

Safeguarding allows genuine offers of help to be encouraged and utilised, by putting processes and systems in place to protect the vulnerable.

 

How can biometrics help safeguarding?

Identity and verification provide two critical factors when it comes to safeguarding:

  1. They hold people accountable for their actions
  2. They build confidence among the helpers and the help seekers

Before COVID-19 arrived, we were already seeing evidence of this in the peer to peer economy. Sharing economy service providers rely on the exchange of knowledge, services, and confidence between two strangers who have a reason to trust each other.

The reason to trust each other is shared information. If I know your car registration number and you know my name, then it’s very likely that we are two matching halves of a bona fide Uber arrangement.

That trust can be greatly corroborated by a picture. Uber, AirBnB and the other sharing economy service providers use pictures of drivers, property owners and renters to instil confidence.

Pictures instil confidence. In a study, researchers at Princeton asked a group of university students to rate the trustworthiness, attractiveness, likeability, competence, and aggressiveness of actors’ faces. One group was given a tenth of a second to make their judgement. The other group was given as long as they wanted. The greatest correlation between the two groups was for trustworthiness - the two groups were most aligned on who could be trusted and who could not. Pictures are very powerful in allowing us to make decisions on trust and it takes just 100 milliseconds for us to make that decision.

But what if those pictures are fake? What if we’re taking 100 milliseconds to decide to trust the woman we’re seeing in the photo, when we’re not actually dealing with her at all?  With a few clicks of a mouse, it’s possible to fabricate a profile picture on social media and pretend to be anyone at all. There are many reasons why attackers would go to considerable lengths to masquerade as someone of a different age or gender, and thousands of criminal offences have been committed against victims of all ages.

So how do we ensure that older, dependent, and vulnerable people can receive tremendously valuable support from others without fear of fraud, theft or cruelty perpetrated by people who are not what they seem?

iProov technology can achieve this in a number of ways. Two examples of use cases that we’re working on right now show how Genuine Presence Assurance can be used during online transactions to build trust, by confirming that an individual is the right person, a real person, and authenticating right now.

  1. Registration of volunteers: Providers of voluntary assistance can register themselves for a service using Genuine Presence Assurance. During the online onboarding process a volunteer would provide their personal details, scan their passport or driver’s license, and then use facial biometric authentication on their mobile phone or web browser to prove that they are indeed the holder of that ID document. This would guarantee that their photograph was genuine and they are indeed a genuine person.
  2. Verification: On any social network, there is always a risk that a person is not who they claim to be. We rely on pictures and other information to help us decide whether to trust an individual, but if those pictures are fake then our trust is misplaced. Verification eliminates that risk. Users can be required to authenticate themselves at the beginning of each session to prove that the person currently online purporting to be them does indeed match their photo. Messages could be marked as ‘verified’ to give additional confidence that a user has authenticated themselves before this conversation. Or authentication could be requested if they want to exchange details or engage in a conversation with someone. In either scenario, trust is increased through a simple, secure facial biometric process via phone or web browser.

The opportunities that stem from these processes are endless. Shopping, gardening, household chores, dog-walking, and even companionable conversation can all be made much safer with easy to use authentication technology.

Are older people using technology more during coronavirus?

We all stand to benefit from the safeguarding technology outlined above. Coronavirus has shown that you don’t need to be old or dependent to be vulnerable. You’re vulnerable if you can’t leave your home for 14 days because you live with someone with COVID symptoms. You’re vulnerable if you have asthma or diabetes. The ability to access help quickly and safely is essential to us all.

However, the uptake of technology by the older generation during the pandemic suggests that safeguarding technology could be effective for this particular age-group.

We recently commissioned a study of consumers. One stat that stood out to me was that almost 40% of people aged 65+ in the UK are using online communications more during the pandemic. It’s not hugely surprising but that’s a significant shift in numbers - there are 12 million people in the UK in this age group, so 5 million people are using technology more today than they did 3 months ago.

Coronavirus bar graph Twitter

Crises accelerate change and we’re going to see huge changes in how society uses technology going forwards. Safeguarding could, and should, be part of that.

See our website for more information on how Genuine Presence Assurance from iProov can help your organization. 

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