Facial recognition will soon be optional for government agencies using ID.me

The identity verification company ID.me has announced that it will make facial recognition verification optional for public sector government partners.

The Virginia-based company recently made headlines after the IRS revealed its plans to require US taxpayers to submit a video selfie in order to create an account on its website. However, following backlash from citizens,  privacy advocates and lawmakers, the government agency has since backtracked on these plans.

In a press release, founder and CEO of ID.me, Blake Hall explained that the company will now provide public sector employees working for the government with a new option to verify their identities, saying:

“We have listened to the feedback about facial recognition and are making this important change, adding an option for users to verify directly with a human agent to ensure consumers have even more choice and control over their personal data.”

Not a biometrics company

ID.me will now give government agency employees the option to verify their identity with an expert human agent as opposed to having to submit a video selfie.

At the same time, beginning on March 1, all of the company's users will be able to delete their video selfies or photos. This is good news due to the fact that if ID.me were to fall victim to a data breach or even suffer a data leak, employees who used its identity verification service could be at high risk of identity theft as cybercriminals would have access to a great deal of their personal information.

In its press release, ID.me also pointed out that it is an identity verification company and not a biometrics company. So far, the company's trained agents have already verified the identities of over 3m Americans including the unbanked, homeless and international users. During the pandemic, law enforcement and government agencies also employed ID.me's services to prevent criminals from committing unemployment fraud.

While the IRS has dropped its plans to implement identity verification for US taxpayers, the government agency could reverse course in the future.

Via Gizmodo

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The US government wants to ban targeted ads for good

A new bill has been put forth by Democrats in the US House and Senate that could drastically change the entire online advertising industry if passed.

The bill in question, known as the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act, was introduced by Anna Eshoo and Jan Schakowsky in the House and Cory Booker in the Senate. If passed, it would severely limit the way in which Google, Facebook and tech companies serve targeted ads to users.

The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act would prohibit targeted advertising using protected class information such as race, gender and religion. However, it would also prevent online advertisers from using personal data purchased from data brokers.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech platforms would still be able to serve targeted ads based on a user's general location at the city or state level though. At the same time, “contextual advertising” based on the online content a user has interacted with would also still be allowed.

Surveillance advertising

In addition to banning targeted advertising, the bill would give the FTC and state attorneys general the power to enforce violations with fines of up to $ 5,000 per incident. These fines could quickly add up for large advertising firms and tech companies which would serve as an incentive for them to no longer serve targeted ads using a user's personal information.

Data brokers have the most to lose though as their entire business revolves around collecting data on users and selling it to companies so that they can deliver targeted ads. 

Democratic congresswoman from California and the bill's lead sponsor, Anna Eshoo provided further insight on the dangers posed by the business model currently used by online advertisers in a statement, saying:

“The ‘surveillance advertising’ business model is premised on the unseemly collection and hoarding of personal data to enable ad targeting. This pernicious practice allows online platforms to chase user engagement at great cost to our society, and it fuels disinformation, discrimination, voter suppression, privacy abuses, and so many other harms. The surveillance advertising business model is broken.”

We'll have to wait and see if the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act passes but in the meantime, you can still force data brokers to give up the data they have on you by using Surfshark's new privacy tool Incogni.

We've also highlighted the best VPN and the best privacy apps

Via TechCrunch

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Dubai Government has 24 use cases on blockchain platform in last three years

Dubai Government has 24 blockchain use cases in the last three years and is on target to achieve its objective of digitising the journeys of the residents by 2021.

Digital transformation is not a new concept to Dubai. The city’s smart transformation journey began in 1999 with the establishment of the e-Government.

The digital transformation strategies have been led by the government and public sectors unlike in other parts of the world where the private sector is ahead and, at the same time, the public sector sets the vision and drives innovation and this helps to rally the private sectors.

Wesam Lootah, Chief Executive Officer of the Smart Dubai Government Establishment, the technology arm of Smart Dubai office, the government entity entrusted with Dubai’s city-wide digital smart transformation, told TechRadar Middle East that the blockchain strategy was launched in October 2016.

“Right now, we have use cases in finance, education, real estate, tourism, commerce, health, transport and security. Blockchain plays a significant role in eliminating the use of paper and move from manual to a fully-digitised transaction,” he said.

 “Government, private and public sectors are leveraging this technology to create seamless transactions. By 2021, the Dubai Government will achieve its paperless strategy. We are in the early days and we will continue to leverage the emerging technologies. Our focus is not on the technologies, but on the impact these technologies can create,” he said.

Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai, said that Dubai’s ambition goes beyond simply bringing advanced technologies and automating tasks.

“The emirate is looking to establish itself as a full-fledged smart city of the future, build a robust, integrated and interconnected ecosystem where advanced technologies are utilised to serve the people and ensure their well-being,” she said.

A key goal for Dubai’s smart transformation is the execution of the Dubai Paperless Strategy by 2021. The strategy aims to 100% digitise all government services, and offer these services to the residents and visitors of Dubai via one mobile platform.

Setting a benchmark

In the next three to four years, Jyoti Lalchandani, Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of research firm International Data Corporation Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said that blockchain will be embedded into the compute and that will open a significant amount of opportunities.

“The blockchain technology will be matured when you have high volume and low-value transactions. Currently, a lot of the blockchain investments happen in low volume and high-value transactions,” he said.

Bin Bishr said that Smart Dubai has launched blockchain-as-a-service that allows government entities to implement use cases without investing in individual platforms.

Moreover, Lootah said that a global blockchain exhibition will be launched during Expo 2020 and a permanent blockchain campus.

Currently, blockchain technology has no standard or protocol globally but he said that Dubai has announced its blockchain policy in November last year that includes the governance and framework that helps to achieve the standard and it was developed in collaboration with all the private and public entities working on blockchain applications using the best benchmarks.

He added that Smart Dubai has implemented the Hyper-Ledger and Ethereum technologies on its platform.

“We focused on the challenges of the implementations. Right now, there is no standard for blockchain technology and no operating procedures globally and unfortunately, the pitfalls are many. If we don’t coordinate properly, there would be duplications of work and in cases, the network may not be able to talk to each other,” he said.

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