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Biometrics and digital identity - next steps for regulation, best practice, addressing ethical concerns, public trust and engagement, and market development

Morning, Wednesday, 21st July 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine priorities for policy and the future regulation and use of biometrics and digital identity in the UK.

The discussion is taking place following the publication of the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework policy paper - which sets out a framework for the principles, policies, procedures and standards governing the use of digital identity, and aims to enable interoperability and increase public confidence - with the Government seeking stakeholder views before publishing the next iteration in the summer.

It also follows the appointment of the new Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson, who is delivering a keynote session at this conference.

We are also pleased to include keynote contribution on the Home Office Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group from Professor Watson Gandy, Barrister, Three Stone Chambers; and Chair, Home Office Biometrics and Forensic Ethics Group - as well as from Julie Dawson, Head of Regulation and Policy, Yoti; Reema Patel, Associate Director, Ava Lovelace Institute; and Professor James Ferryman, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science; Member, Computational Vision Group, University of Reading.

The agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • ethical considerations and regulatory priorities
  • priorities for building robust digital identity infrastructures
  • developing the market for digital identity services

The agenda

  • Biometric-based identity verification security systems in the UK - the latest research and developments in contactless biometric identification
  • Addressing the ethical considerations in the use of biometrics - guidance for building substantive trust and policies for encouraging meaningful public engagement
  • Regulatory priorities in the use biometric technology - mitigating against algorithmic bias, managing effective human oversight, and implementing data protection by design
  • ‘Home Office Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group: role, remit, and recent work’
  • Priorities for building robust digital identity infrastructures - transparency, accountability, and data minimisation 
  • Understanding the consumer potential of facial technologies - inclusivity, protecting against fraud, and safeguarding privacy and security
  • Developing the market for digital identity services  - innovation, future applications, and exploring potential avenues for growth
  • The future outlook on biometrics and digital identity across the UK

Key areas for discussion:

Biometric-based identity verification security systems in the UK:

  • latest research - examining the impact and implementation of innovation, and developments in contactless biometric information
  • project PROTECT - a three year project launched in 2020, funded by Horizon:
    • aiming to build an advanced person identification system based on biometrics, that is able to work across a range of border crossing types, and has strong user-centric features
    • we expect discussion on the latest research from the project, and what is needed for it to operate at a range of border crossing types
  • addressing concerns - tackling common concerns including:
    • the intrusiveness of the technology
    • balancing issues around the cost-effectiveness
    • use for border control
    • human rights implications

The UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework policy paper - the scope of proposals for what ‘good’ digital identities look like and implications for stakeholders, looking at:

  • the rules for organisations - in respect of:
    • ensuring products and services are inclusive
    • requirements on privacy and data protection
    • ensuring security and managing fraud
  • potential legislation - a finalised framework is expected to be brought into law, with specific standards and requirements for organisations that provide or use digital identity services, including:
    • having a data management policy which explains how they create, obtain, disclose, protect and delete data
    • following industry standards and best practice for information security and encryption
    • notifying the user of any changes made to their digital identity, for example an update to their address
    • where appropriate, having a detailed account recovery process and notifying users if organisations suspect someone has fraudulently accessed their account, or used their digital identity
    • following guidance on how to choose secure authenticators for their service

Ethical considerations in the use of biometric technology:

  • building trust - the way forward for increasing the level of acceptance of biometric technologies among the public and stakeholders:
    • following the Interim report by the Commissioner for the retention and use of biometric material from the previous Biometrics Commissioner
    • we expect discussion on it recommendations that the Government needs to create more public trust in data use and sharing, and public engagement in any future regulatory framework
  • the work of the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group - looking at:
    • its role - and priorities for:
      • oversight of the ethical impact on society, groups, and individuals of biometric technology and datasets
      • areas of particular focus, including where system implementation involves the use of machine learning and AI
    • The ethical issues arising from public-private collaboration in the use of live facial recognition technology - policy and stakeholder implications of the BFEG investigation, on concerns around:
      • the sharing of data and technology
      • the development of behavioural biometrics for use in live biometric facial recognition technology (LFR)
      • determination and bias in the use of LFR
      • the construction of watchlists
      • the effect of using LFR in private spaces used by the public
  • meaningful public engagement - assessing guidance for how best to approach engagement with biometric technology, including key lessons learned from the Citizens’ Biometrics Council
  • the Ryder Review - evaluating findings from the independent review of the governance of biometric data, led by Matthew Ryder QC
  • regulatory priorities and questions to address - looking at issues including:
    • managing effective human and independent oversight
    • priorities for inclusivity and mitigating against algorithmic bias
    • the UK digital identity and attributes trust framework - discussing latest developments following the call for feedback earlier this year
    • the way forward for building robust digital identity systems and infrastructures
    • safeguarding privacy and security, and against fraud and misuse, as well as implementing data protection by design

Developing the market for digital identity services:

  • research and innovation:
    • priorities for supporting research in the industry
    • identifying areas that would benefit from the implementation of digital identity services
    • outlining opportunities for future applications of identity verification services, including in banking, retail, gaming, and other key industries
  • developing the market - how can organisational use of digital identity services best support inclusivity and drive business efficiency
  • commercial potential - latest thinking on developing use cases and marketing for facial technologies, across different types, such as facial recognition as opposed to facial age analysis

The future outlook on biometrics and digital identity across the UK:

  • the newly appointed surveillance and camera commissioner - their priorities for promoting compliance with the Surveillance Camera Code, in the context of the Public Sector Equality Duty

Further relevant background:

  • ongoing discussion about the development of a potential vaccine passport:
    • PM promises review on issues of vaccine passports - planning to look into what have been termed deep and complex issues surrounding vaccine passports
    • British Airways plans app-based travel pass - with people who have received both vaccinations being able to register this on the airline’s app
  • the Verification of Children Online Phase 2 Report - undertaken by GCHQ, led by DCMS and supported by the Home Office, the report responds to the challenge of accurate age verification online, and knowing which users are children in order to make the internet a safer and healthier place for them, and to build safety into design
  • the Online harms white paper - which includes plans to enhance law enforcement’s ability to tackle anonymous online abuse by investing in training designed to improve digital capability across policing

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Overall, we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials in this area of public policy, together with digital platforms and online businesses, consumer technology companies, software and app developers,  data analytics and data handling organisations, companies involved in the development of new technologies such as AI, cyber security and data protection companies, the technology and telecoms industries, organisations and individuals representing the views of consumers and citizens, regulators, academics and reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Professor James Ferryman

Senior Lecturer in Computer Science; Member, Computational Vision Group, University of Reading

Reema Patel

Associate Director, Ada Lovelace Institute

Professor Watson Gandy

Barrister, Three Stone Chambers; and Chair, Home Office Biometrics and Forensic Ethics Group

Julie Dawson

Head of Regulation and Policy, Yoti

Professor Fraser Sampson

Biometrics Commissioner and Surveillance Camera Commissioner


Rt Hon Sir George Howarth MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Identity


Chris Michael

Chief Executive Officer, Ozone API; and Head of Technology, Open Banking

Philip James

Partner, Global Privacy and Cyber Security Group, Eversheds Sutherland