E-Verify’s Slippery Biometric Slope….

Federal programs are notorious for mission creep. Small programs intended to address specific concerns typically grow far beyond their original bounds. Social Security numbers are a prime example: They initially were intended to track personal income in order to calculate Social Security benefits, but now they are indispensable for access to credit, purchasing a firearm and much more.

The House Judiciary Committee is considering another program destined to creep into the rest of our lives. The Legal Workforce Act (LWA), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), would mandate E-Verify for all new hires in the United States. E-Verify is a government program intended to discourage the hiring of illegal immigrants by enabling employers to verify the legal work status of all new employees.

Mandating E-Verify would force every American to ask the government for permission to work. That is bad enough, but it gets even worse: The system is defective. The database it relies on often fails to identify illegal immigrants and sometimes rejects people who are legally eligible to work.

These inaccuracies portend dangerous mission creep. According to a recent government audit, E-Verify approves roughly half of illegal immigrant workers, partly because it only checks the documents that the worker gives the employer, creating a huge loophole. LWA attempts to resolve that by notifying all Americans when their Social Security numbers are used for employment verification. But that won’t close the loopholes, and so eager politicians in Washington will keep piling on new regulations, mandates and controls.

The next step will be a national biometric identity card for all citizens and legal residents to aid workplace verification of immigration status. LWA creates “pilot authentication programs” based on “new technologies,” which will combine E-Verify with our biometric information to create a more foolproof system. Such a system was proposed in 2010. Organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform already support it.

But mandatory E-Verify could soon morph into far more….

By Alex Nowrasteh – The Hill –

Biometric Tipping Point: USAA Uses Face, Voice Recognition

USAA is letting its members log in to mobile banking in the blink of an eye — literally.

The San Antonio financial services company has rolled out facial recognition technology across its entire membership base that lets them access its mobile app with a tap of their smartphone camera and a blink when prompted (to prove they’re a live person and not a photo). USAA is also giving members the option of logging in with a spoken phrase.

This makes USAA the first major U.S. financial institution to deploy a full-scale rollout of voice and facial recognition. In an industry that has tried and failed to make biometric identification work for 50 years, USAA’s efforts could be a significant turning point.

One key reason why is the immense popularity of the smartphone. Smartphone cameras let users employ their own hardware to capture their facial characteristics. Device identity also provides assurance that the smartphone belongs to the right customer.

“The ubiquitous adoption of the smartphone has altered the market — you no longer need kiosks or readers, the smartphone is a multifactor edge device” for biometric authentication, said Tom Grissen, CEO of Daon, the Fairfax, Va. software company that developed the biometric technology with USAA (Daon is working on similar projects with several large banks).

Decades of improvements in voice and facial recognition are also helping reduce false negatives and friction — facial recognition takes two seconds. And a growing exasperation with forgotten, lost or stolen passwords may drive people toward face- or voice-based logins.

“Four out of five end customers who have experienced the technology prefer it over a PIN or password,” Grissen said.

By Penny Crosman – American Banker –