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Beast selling crime Author, Tim Weaver presents a Penguin Podcast 'Can a person go missing in 2015?'


MISSING is a new podcast, hosted by bestselling crime writer Tim Weaver. Over the course of an entire season, the show investigates the world of missing people – who disappears, why they disappear, the pressures of life on the run, and who tracks them down – and charts the progression of a missing persons search.


The podcast follows Tim as he meets with leading experts (including Clive Reedman) from the worlds of investigation, surveillance, data, forensics, psychology, and technology. Each week on MISSING, he challenges them – and himself – with the ultimate question: is it really possible to disappear? Listen to the latest episode on iTunes, now.

Catch it at


Can a person disappear in 2015? Refelections on my interview with Tim Weaver.


A few days ago I was asked to take part in the recording of a podcast for Penguin Books. The bestselling author, Tim Weaver interviewed me and a number of other people from various disciplines and with differing views for the podcast that will be available on the 27th August. The subject matter fits in with the general theme of Tim’s novels that have to date always involved the efforts of the private investigator, Dave Raker to trace people who have gone missing, either through choice, or for more sinister reasons. My part in the exercise was to offer up a view of how biometric technologies play a part in this scenario and it all (at first) sounded pretty straight forward. After all, there is a simple division between the biometric data that is held on us by government(s) and that which exists in our day to day lives; isn’t there? If somebody chose to disappear, then surely they would simply avoid coming into contact with those areas of government that could match a previous ‘identity’ with the one that they now wished to assume, so as to avoid the deception being detected? Traveling abroad using a passport, or being arrested would of course be a bad idea, particularly if the individual had a criminal record! But is it really that simple? I go out in public on most days and I therefore, assume that I could be recognised. I may just be a ‘familiar stranger’, or be known personally to somebody that comes into contact with me. How then could I be somebody else in order to ‘disappear’? I could of course change my location and reduce drastically the chances of somebody who recognises me coming into a position whereby I might be recognised by them. But is that enough, if my aim is to disappear completely? It is at this point that I started to consider Locards Principle. If every contact leaves a trace, then surely my efforts to become anonymous, or another person entirely are futile? Is it not true that whatever I do, I will always be me and that my past will have left so many ‘markers’ to my identity that trying to become somebody I have never been is impossible? Will I be forever me, whatever I try to do to change it? Is my ‘Locard Trail’ so a part of my history that whatever I do it will always hang off me like a beacon shining out into the night, alerting those that come close that I am who I have always been?


Realising that there are so many questions to be answered, I decided to start considering exactly what it was that made us, ‘us’ and therefore what we needed to do to be somebody else? My conclusion was that we are in essence a history. We have a past and therefore a long trail that extends behind us like a slug trail that reveals where we have been and who we are. We leave traces of ourselves many, many times a day. Those traces are often enough in themselves to reveal our ‘true’ identity. Today, before writing this, what is I have done that could leave such traces? I have logged on to my PC, used my mobile phone, interacted with my bank, sent emails to colleagues and customers, been to the shop and used a debit card, walked past three CCTV camera’s and spoken to a neighbour. And of course, I have conversed with my wife, who has a fairly good idea of who I am! So what is I would need to do to disappear, if I wanted to, for whatever reason? I could withdraw enough cash to cover a change of location to somewhere remote, ditch my mobile, use internet café’s instead of my own laptop/PC/iPad and be careful not to log into any accounts that could capture the IP address I was using and be associated with my previous life, give myself a new name and build a new persona that avoided past associations with people and places? But is that realistic? What is it that I would miss in trying to become somebody else; an invented human entity? How do I shake off the trail that follows me that can reveal my past?


During the interview with Tim, I introduced the concept of ‘biometrics at a distance’, i.e. that is a truism that each biometric modality requires a differing proximity to a sensor. Taken that in all likelihood I have a ‘biometric trail’, be it in the government, or private domain, how do I avoid any chance that this may be used to identify the person I was before I disappeared? What is the difference between the Locard and Biometric trails I have dragging behind me, if anything? How do I remain at a distance that is sufficient, given the current state of identification technology, to remain ‘anonymous’? We all have to be somewhere after all! The question is what exists in that ‘somewhere’ to reveal my past? I can stay as distant as I can from human contact for as long as I can, but only for so long. So what dangers do I face in coming in closer? If I stay distant from human contact I could perhaps avoid the danger of being recognised by somebody that could make a connection (somehow) with my previous existence. Maybe, I could avoid any connection with systems that could identify previous transactions with a person that had previously made other transactions that could point to me being that same person. I could use cash to purchase the things I need to live, make new human connections, invent new histories etc etc. But where would I slip up? How could I sustain this new identity? Could I? Nobody can exist in isolation without standing out like the proverbial sore thumb! To exist in a modern society we have to have an identity. But can we possibly create a new identity part way through our short time on this planet and get away with it? We can try as hard as we can to live at a distance, but we have to interact and in doing so we must leave traces of ourselves that point to who we are, or have been.


My conclusion is that I don’t have the answer to Tim’s question ‘can a person disappear in 2015’. There are far too many questions that need to be answered. Too many if’s and but’s to deal with. We have all created a long trail behind us and we are all slugs that are very poor at hiding what we are and where we have been. But, from the biometric aspect? Well, my view is that if I avoid contact with government (if that’s possible), and don’t come into contact with the Police in a way that requires them to identify me, then maybe I can avoid my past persona being tracked. I might be able to create a plausible identity that ‘fools’ those that I now interact with and I may therefore be able to be somebody else. But whatever I do, I cannot help leaving traces and as one that understands forensics, I know that every contact does indeed leave a trace and that those traces can reveal my history. It would be an odd human that could avoid being recognised by some means or another. But as I postulated during the interview with Tim, maybe we are taking the proposition of disappearance from the wrong perspective? Maybe the identification at a distance argument isn’t the one we need to prioritise? I am an amateur street photographer and as such I keep my eyes open. I teach pupils to look and become part of the environment they are in. What always hits me is that in North Street, Brighton (a very busy place), after instructing them to tell me after 10 minutes walking, just what it is they saw; very few (if any) reported seeing the man, or woman who are down on their luck, sitting in a doorway. Maybe, just maybe then disappearance is best achieved ‘in full sight’? Is it possible that we could pass by the person we know ‘so well’ without seeing them if that person has disappeared; not through their own choice, but because we, as a community have chosen to ignore certain ‘classes’ of individual. If I became the man on the street, but in plain sight, could I become invisible and effectively disappear, even though people who have interacted with me before pass by? My guess is that I could and maybe this is the answer. We build a trail that can be followed. Technology plays it part and interacting with it by exposing our previous existence. But maybe the way to disappear is not to avoid being seen, but to simply fall under the radar in a way that being seen still doesn’t make us ‘seen’? If you are invisible then however hard somebody tries, they cannot see you!


Tim Weaver’s new novel, ‘What Remains’ is available now and doing very well in the charts. I am sure that any of us who have spent time in the forensic world will be able to recognise and have empathy with his characters. I just hope that we can help in some way in answering the question for him!

NPCC Chair Sara Thornton: We must “re-imagine” policing in the UK

Chief Constable Sara Thornton has today argued that the twin challenges of changing requirements and cost pressure mean that we have to think imaginatively and radically about policing.

Speaking to the Police Foundation, she stated that the service must be focused on getting the right outcomes for the public - which will entail better demand management, a commitment to evidence-based policing, further integration with other organisations and a constant emphasis on legitimacy. Very different workforce skills and a change to leadership culture will be needed.

The Police Foundation's annual John Harris Memorial Lecture has been running since 1983. Previous speakers include Keith Bristow QPM, Sir Thomas Winsor, The Rt Hon Lord Judge and The Rt Hon David Cameron MP.

In her speech, CC Thornton concluded:

“The pressures of changing requirements and significant reductions in the budget demand different approaches.  This requires fresh thinking and determined leadership.  The establishment of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in April provides an opportunity to reset the way in which chief officers work together: we have been asked to contribute our ideas and we are up for the debate with the public, elected representatives and our staff to inform the “’re-imagination of policing’.”

Dr Rick Muir, Director of the Police Foundation said:

“The police service is under unprecedented pressure, having to deal simultaneously with financial austerity and changing patterns of crime. The police need to better understand the changing nature of demand on their services. The rise of cyber crime and growing concern about child sexual exploitation in particular require a wholly different kind of policing. This year's annual Police Foundation lecture by Chief Constable Sara Thornton provides a timely opportunity to reflect on these challenges and consider how the police, the government and citizens can work together to meet them."

The full text of CC Thornton’s speech is set out below.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PFlecture


“Re-imagining policing”

Check against delivery

I have attended this annual lecture many times over the last ten years and have always enjoyed being part of the audience.  I had never anticipated this role reversal and am genuinely humbled to be following in the footsteps of so many outstanding public servants.

I have also worked with the Police Foundation over the years and been stimulated to think and enjoyed lively debate.  As Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police I attended the annual Oxford Policing Policy Forums: a few hours sitting in the Old Library at All Souls provided sanctuary from the pressures of operational policing!  More recently, Thames Valley Police has worked very closely with the Foundation on the substantial research project Police Effectiveness in a Changing World. The intensive evidence-based work that officers and staff have undertaken with the Foundation is bearing fruit.  In two very deprived parts of Slough we have pioneered new ways of working to reduce the violence which is all too endemic in the lives of local people.

I have decided to take as my theme the issues with which I found myself grappling as both a local chief constable and now as Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.  I will argue that the twin pressures of changing requirements and the need for policing to cost less mean that we need to think imaginatively and radically about policing.  The aim of the Police Foundation is to promote debate on policing, police reform and tackling crime.  I would like to contribute to that debate this evening.

You will all know that old joke about someone asking for directions and the answer is, “I wouldn’t start from here”.  If we were going to design policing for 2020 we would not start from here.  We need to look at the problem from different angles.

So my aim in this lecture is to persuade you that we need to re-imagine policing.  But in doing so I neither implicitly criticise my fantastically committed and hard working colleagues up and down the country nor do I intend to step into the world of elected politicians.

In respect of the former, as my colleague Chief Superintendent Sutherland says:

“You are brave and you are brilliant. You are capable and you are compassionate. You are fearless and you are funny. You are patient and you are professional. You are long-suffering and you are loyal. You are humble and you are humane. You are inspiring. You are extraordinary. You are the Everyday Heroes and Heroines who police our streets.”

Nor do I ignore the advice of Shami Chakrabarti in her 2007 John Harris Memorial Lecture:

“I can certainly sympathise with chief constables who might prefer the microphone to the truncheon and see why ministers love the feel of a bullet proof vest. I can only ask those with senior roles in policing and politics to beware the real dangers of continued constitutional cross-dressing.”

I am a police officer not a politician. 

When I first became Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council I had an important discussion with chief constable colleagues about the position we should take with the Government.  I knew there was a view that the Association of Chief Police Officers had adopted an overly political position.  We have reformed the Association by moving from company status to that of a collaborated unit, hosted by a police force, and are putting all the national functions on a proper footing.  We also needed to reset the way in which we worked with a range of stakeholders.  Chiefs agreed that it was our role to work with an elected Government and that 90 per cent of our effort should be focussed on operational co-ordination and collaboration.  However, it is important I do speak up on behalf of the service.

Government funding to police forces has been cut by about 25 per cent in real terms over the last five years and we are set for similar cuts in the next five to come.  HMIC concluded that forces had risen to the challenge of austerity, making £2.5 billion worth of savings and protecting frontline services as best they could.  There are numerous examples of sharing staff, buildings and equipment, some with other organisations and some with other police forces.  Two thirds of forces are already co-located with other organisations or have plans to do so.  Most forces have significantly reduced expenditure on estates, fleet and procurement and there are a range of innovative approaches to the costs of business support services.

While staff numbers are in no way the measure of productivity, we cannot ignore the fact that the recent National Audit Office report explained that numbers have reduced by 36,000 between March 2010 and September 2014, and most fear that we are set to reduce by another 35,000, from 191,000 to 156,000, over the next spending review period. 

When I was Chief Constable of Thames Valley I was always careful to avoid shroud waving. Admittedly, the challenge was not as great in the Thames Valley as some areas because local taxation was a good source of revenue. But I can confidently say we cut budgets but did not cut services.  The local MP for Witney quoted my comments to local radio:

 “What I haven’t done at all is reduce the number of officers who do the patrol functions, so the officers you see in vehicles, on foot, in uniform, on bicycles. We haven’t cut those numbers at all.”

I do not have a history of crying wolf and I am not doing so now.

Many of my colleagues have commented on the fact there was little discussion of policing in the election campaign.  There was no hue and cry about levels of crime or police funding.  As an electorate, we elected a Government which made no promises to protect expenditure on policing.  The need to restore economic health was seen as the priority and the latest Ipsos MORI polling does not even have crime in the top ten issues that concern the public.

However, the loss of over 70,000 posts in ten years is a game changer.  Cutting staff numbers at this level and not changing the way we work will cause service failure and unacceptably stress our staff.  The response in the last five years has been about efficiency: we have reduced “supply side” costs, we have done more with less.  Forces have re-structured, civilianised, rationalised estate and cut discretionary spend.  As the Chief Constable of West Midlands has said, the next five years will be about doing less with greater focus.  Public services can cost less but they will have to be delivered differently. 

If we “slash and burn” there is no way that we can offer the same protection to the public.  We need to create more capacity by taking steps out of process, people out of systems and making our people more productive.

We need to re-imagine the whole system, not incrementally reform. 

Recent short term successes, including the fall in traditional crime from 19 million to 7 million since 1995 and steady levels of public confidence, risk masking the need to respond to long term challenges such as globalisation, digitisation and new threats.  We need to reappraise our approach - and do so before it is too late.

This lecture is about policing but I think that it has a wider application.  Public service reform was at the heart of the Blair Government’s ambition and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit had a central role.  It has been fashionable to knock Sir Michael Barber’s “deliverology” but, as I have thought about this lecture, I have been struck by the absence of any one big idea about transformation across Government.  Nudge, Big Society and What Works have been talked up but have not yet taken off.  I have been involved with the Chief of the Defence Staff’s strategy forum and Her Majesty’s Courts Service transformation steering group.  Both are grappling with very similar issues - including looking to technology innovators for inspiration.  But it may be that there is no longer one “best way” to deliver public services.

This is categorically not going to be a call for the restructuring of policing.  Restructuring is not the silver bullet that will solve the funding gaps and the twin rocks of local taxation differences and local politics which undid Charles Clarke’s attempts to restructure nine years ago remain.  Following the introduction of local Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012, they are arguably harder and rockier.

We live in a world that is digitally enabled and globally connected and this is having a tremendous impact on policing.  We see this in the terrorist threat, in people trafficking, in organised crime, child sexual abuse and fraud. 

Many new crimes have been enabled and some old ones made easier.  Fraud is one example and it is estimated that, in the next Crime Survey of England and Wales, over three million frauds will be reported.  These will be perpetrated from all over the world.  While support for victims and prevention will need to be focussed in territorial policing, it is clear that work to track down the offenders will need to be national and international.

David Anderson’s recent report on interception and communications data illustrates the extent to which digitalisation facilitates crime.  He argues that:

There are individuals who will take advantage of any unpatrolled space to groom, abuse, blackmail, steal secrets from, threaten, defraud and plot destructive acts of terrorism against others.  Any state that claims to protect its citizens must have the ability effectively to detect, disrupt and prosecute such behaviour. The central issue is how that ability can be combined with the expectation of privacy which law-abiding people have and deserve.

“There may be all sorts of reasons - not least, secure encryption - why it is not physically possible to intercept a particular communication, or track a particular individual. But the power to do so needs to exist, even if it is only usable in cases where skill or trickery can provide a way around the obstacle. Were it to be otherwise, entire channels of communication could be reduced to lawless spaces in which freedom is enjoyed only by the strong, and evil of all kinds can flourish.”

The report focused on terrorism but we also see the loss of police capability in the day-to-day of policing.  It affects our ability to track down and safeguard the self-harming missing teenager, lost child or person suffering a mental health crisis.

The College of Policing’s recent work on demand illustrates very clearly the way in which demand is changing as “traditional” acquisitive crime falls and information crime, internet-enabled crime and crimes targeting the vulnerable increase.  The offences that are becoming more prevalent require different skills and expertise and necessitate greater levels of cross-organisational working.

Responding to the abuse of children is probably the greatest challenge facing the service.  There are many high profile investigations, a massive increase in reporting and long standing difficulties in the response to the exploitation of the most vulnerable young people.  It has been estimated that the number of investigations in forces will have risen 88 per cent since 2012.  Operation Hydrant, which maintains an overview of all high profile and institutional investigations, has 1,500 nominal records.

The challenge is enormous but can be met if we focus on effective policing, pursue integration and re-shape the workforce.

The need for policing to respond to changing requirements and to cost less will require us to ensure that all we do is focused on the right outcomes.  We will need to manage demand and ensure our policing strategies are effective and evidence-based.  We will need to ensure the way in which we police is driven by the need to maintain legitimacy. 

Public sector organisations, including the police, rarely have sole control of the process for producing the public service for which they are responsible.  They rely on information, compliance and effort from a wide range of actors including the public.  Or, in other words, the Peelian principle that police officers are only those members of the public who give full-time attention to the responsibilities of all citizens remains as relevant in 2015 as it did in 1829.

“Public value” theory prompts us to think about the value we are trying to create.  What outcomes are we delivering for the citizen?  The Harvard professor Mark Moore’s ideas prompted several think tanks to advocate this approach about ten years ago and we have just started to think about its application to policing! 

So what are the police for?  What is the value we are trying to create in policing?  What is the purpose of a police force?  The activities it carries out are not an end in themselves but a means to an end. But what end?  Is the purpose to patrol the streets?  Is it to reduce crime?  Or is it to make people feel safer?  The more broadly the purpose is framed, the more we are able to think of different ways of achieving the desired effect.

It could be argued that the performance management of the 1980s onwards focused too much on outputs or results.  Not only did it fail by Goodhart’s Rule that, when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure - but also because focusing on outputs means we limit the different ways to think about outcomes.  As the Australian academic John Alford said we need to “think expansively about ultimate purpose, and concomitantly, about means of realising them.”

In our recent response to the National Debate Advisory Group report on Reshaping Policing for the Public, chiefs said that:

Within the context of reducing budgets and changing demand the police service can continue to provide service and protection but it will have to be delivered in different ways – not all may be initially favoured by the public or political commentators. We are determined to be as innovative as possible in meeting these challenges.”

And in that context, is visible patrol a feature of policing which may be the right response in some circumstances rather than an end in itself?  When budgets were larger we could afford higher levels of visible patrol and we have increased visibility in recent years with more Special Constables and Police Community Support Officers.  But is that sustainable?

We need an honest conversation about what policing is here to do, not only now but also up to and beyond 2020, in recognition of the changing operating environment and significantly reduced resources resulting from the public sector spending cuts and austerity measures.

The report of the Independent Police Commission, published in November 2013, argued that the police role was not limited to crime fighting and that it had a broader social mission to improve the safety and well-being of communities and promote measures to prevent crime, harm and disorder.  And while the vast majority of my colleagues support that broader role, it does come at a cost.

The broad role of the police as the service of last resort puts huge demands on policing.   I fear that in promoting accessibility, we have not always done enough to encourage people to engage with the appropriate organisation, adding cost and complexity.  And policing is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so after 4pm on Friday the public turn to the police as a first resort.  But is this affordable? 

The recent work on demand by the College of Policing showed that only 22 per cent of police incidents are about crime and that, of the remaining police incidents, 15 to 20 per cent are linked to mental health issues.  I am not arguing there is no role for the police but why are we called to other public institutions to restrain patients who have become violent?

We also need to tackle “failure demand”, which is the work created when we do not do things right for the public first time.  Insufficient information on our websites and poorly worded letters or emails can all cause avoidable work in call centres.

So we need to focus on managing the demand placed upon policing and this is not just compiling a list of things that we will not do.  We tried that several years ago.  Some might recall Ingrid Posen’s 1995 work on core and ancillary tasks, which resulted in our losing responsibility to escort wide loads, and that was all.  If we are to think wisely about demand then we need to think about the whole system - we need to think about working with partner organisations to take mainstream policing upstream to focus on prevention and early intervention.  This accords with the Peelian principle that states “the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.” 

Malcolm Gladwell uses the example of Million-Dollar Murray.  Murray Barr was an ex-marine with a very bad drink problem in Reno Nevada.  He was homeless and was constantly being arrested, taken to hospital or put on detox programmes.  The local officers who dealt with him day-in and day-out got so fed-up of the revolving door for people like Murray, and the fact that 50 per cent of their time was spent dealing with similar problems, which they tried to work out how much it was costing the state.  And over 10 years they calculated that it would cost a million dollars.  Hence Million-Dollar Murray!

Louise Casey’s excellent Troubled Families initiative is an example of this kind of approach.  Many public services are focused on a small number of people and families - all responding to the symptoms but not really addressing the causes.  However, if a range of practitioners work together effectively they can be more effective at tackling causes, as well as responding to symptoms.  The efficiencies will be found through public services exploiting the grey areas between silos.  We need to understand the totality of the issues in an area and address them by thinking and acting more horizontally.

Innovative thinking has often led us to collaboration and I am convinced that we need to share resources across forces. Indeed, we have had a 87 per cent increase in national level mutual aid compared with last year.  The recent National Debate Advisory Group report recommended we standardise and scale-up specialist capabilities to cross-force or regional structures.  We have already agreed to scale-up undercover capabilities, prison intelligence and digital forensics - this will continue.

Working together makes sense if we are ever to go upstream and prevent harm rather than merely respond to it.  The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill provides an opportunity to bring more public services together through a shared budget and common objectives.  But is the answer collaboration or integration?  Collaboration can so often feel sub-optimal.  The local join-up to protect vulnerable people can often result in two people rather than one attending a meeting.  It cannot be efficient for colleagues to attend meetings which last many hours when only 20 per cent of the agenda is relevant.  Multi-agency safeguarding hubs are a great idea, but so often we have staff from several organisations all in one room filling their own databases with the same information and doubling-up when they see clients.  I think we need multi-disciplinary teams: managing and being managed by people from other sectors focused on the shared endeavours of delivering public value and reducing the opportunity for individuals to harm others.

We then need to be employing effective tactics. What is the evidence that what we do works?  What do we know about preventing crime?

One of the original proponents of evidence-based medicine, Archie Cochrane, argued:

 “If we are ever going to get the ‘optimum’ results from our national expenditure on the NHS we must finally be able to express the results in the form of the benefit and cost to the population of a particular activity, and the increased benefit that could be obtained if more money were made available.”

This works on two levels in policing.  Firstly, we need to be able to demonstrate that public money spent on policing is well spent on delivering benefits to the public, but also the lack of money should drive us to be even more demanding about the need for evidence of effectiveness.

In the response to the recent National Debate Advisory Group report the NPCC argued that police visibility is not an end in itself but a useful tactic when tackling certain problems.  The essential part is the accessibility of local policing to local people, not wall-to-wall coverage of local policing teams irrespective of threat, risk and harm.  Some chiefs argued this as a matter of financial necessity, but others would have in mind the US Police Foundation’s Kansas City preventive patrol experiment. 

As George Kelling wrote in the introduction to that 1974 report:

“Ever since the creation of a patrolling force in 13th century Hangchow preventive patrol by uniformed personnel has been a primary function of policing.  Police themselves, the general public, and elected officials have always believed that the presence of police officers on patrol severely inhibits criminal activity.”

The report went on to show that across 15 large beats, neither increasing nor decreasing the number of marked police cars assigned to routine patrol had an effect on crime, service delivery to citizens or citizen’s feelings of security.

However, some of you will know that the evidence does not end there.  When Larry Sherman demonstrated that over half of all crime was concentrated in around 5 per cent of locations, the idea of focusing patrols on those crime “hot spots” sparked a generation of police experiments - almost all of which show that more policing of hot spots does reduce crime.  In the Minneapolis experiment, Sherman and David Weisburd found, “clear if modest general deterrent effects of substantial increases in police presence in crime hot spots”.  Anthony Braga’s 2012 review of 20 similar studies found that 17 showed noteworthy reductions.  Since then, Barak Ariel has found crime reductions from extra patrols at hot spot experiments on the London Underground, in Birmingham and in Peterborough.  And in 2012 David Weisburd won the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for showing that crime reductions in hot spots rarely lead to displacement of crime to nearby locations.  

Hot spot policing is one of the strongest examples of using research to improve policing and, therefore, being able to demonstrate effectiveness.  It shows that patrol is effective when targeted on pretty small areas but not when it is random and lacking in focus.  Moreover, separate experiments in Philadelphia suggest that foot patrol is effective in some kinds of hot spots and offender-focused policing is effective in other kinds of hot spots.  So the evidence does not show that “bobbies on the beat” is an outdated idea but that it can be effective as part of data-driven targeting of preventive patrol.

British public and elected officials are no different from the American ones described by George Kelling - they believe in a general inhibiting effect of patrol - but maybe it is time for a wider public debate that is informed by the evidence?

We need to adopt evidence-based management which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton describe as:

A willingness to put aside belief and conventional wisdom, the dangerous half truths that many embrace, and replace these with an unrelenting commitment to gather the necessary facts to make more informed and intelligent decisions.”

Lastly, we need to maintain the legitimacy of the police in the eyes of the public. There is a growing body of evidence which shows people obey the laws which disadvantage them personally if those laws are applied fairly.  These findings support what is known as “procedural justice theory”.  It has some similarities with nudge concepts, in that procedural justice places emphasis on normative or non-forced compliance.  So the way in which police officers exercise their powers impacts on the need for enforcement.  David Smith argued that, “the bottom line is that maintaining police legitimacy means actively cultivating the values and ethics of policing as a profession.”  The professional model values expertise, independent judgement and ethical values.  And I will return to that later.

The sort of organisation that I envisage - clear about public value, focused on what works and providing integrated services at all levels - will require very different skills and expertise.  And as I said at the beginning, I am not criticising my current colleagues in any way, but we need to develop new skills among our existing staff and bring in people with new skills.

Importantly, I think that the challenge of securing the right skills and expertise is about the leadership of the service, but it is also about those who do the job – in particular the 100,000 constables.  The recent Leadership Review by the College of Policing focuses on the need for expertise and emphasises the importance of valuing expertise and not hierarchy, with emphasis placed on what officers and staff know rather than what rank they hold.  The report calls for a, “fundamental change in the way we equip the whole police workforce with leadership skills and knowledge”.  The College has a vital role in developing professional practice that is ethically based and informed by the evidence.

I can think of three areas where current practice does not facilitate this professional approach; the reward package, the rank-based approach to professional knowledge and the supervision of officers.

The current reward package focuses on rank and time served and, if we are to implement a model based on expertise, then there will need to be a radically different approach to pay and conditions.  But we surely have to move away from a model where a constable with six years service is paid the same, whether they have numerous accredited skills and significant expertise or not?  Generation Y is not looking for a step-ladder shaped career - but for an individual’s unique skills and contribution to be recognised.

The challenge is how we move from the current structure to something that will facilitate the development and retention of the specialist skills required in policing in the future.  And a very hard part of that work will be to ensure that we unpick the complexity of a workforce model where we have police officers with warrants who never use them and police staff who use legal powers on a daily basis. 

It has often struck me that we have an approach to knowledge which gives constables a little and tests them on it, sergeants a little more and tests them on it and then inspectors a little more and tests them on it.  This approach to examination on promotion builds in dependence and undermines professional independence.

Likewise, we still have a very heavy supervisory structure.  Police officers do make extremely significant decisions, yet these are largely done on the street and supervision is mainly confined to checking the database entries back at the station.  This is not another call for sergeants to go on patrol but to equip professional officers properly and then let them get on with it.  We need professionally confident officers and staff who work comfortably across organisations, understand others and are able to exert influence and form alliances.  We need to be looking outwards at every level.

Similarly, the College Leadership Review focused on the need to have a leadership culture where challenge is welcomed and there is openness to change.  A focus on ethics and evidence will facilitate a more challenging approach.  However, it is also clear that the “wicked problems” which we face need a more collective approach to leadership.  We need to harness the contribution of the team.  The one “heroic leader” cannot both define and solve the sort of problems that confront policing in 2015, let alone 2020.

The track record of change in policing is varied.  The occupational culture is very strong and tends to look back to a glorious heyday which never existed. And, as David Weisburd and Anthony Braga observed in the US context:

 “Police departments are highly resistant to change and police officers often experience difficulty in implementing new programs.”

And it is not just policing in the 21st Century. Reluctance to change was highlighted by Machiavelli in The Prince:

 “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

However, the pressures of changing requirements and significant reductions in the budget demand different approaches.  This requires fresh thinking and determined leadership.  The establishment of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in April provides an opportunity to reset the way in which chief officers work together: we have been asked to contribute our ideas and we are up for the debate with the public, elected representatives and our staff to inform the “re-imagination of policing”.

GO4IT proud to become gold sponsors of the EUIAI inaugural conference

The European Division of the International Association for Identification will be holding its inaugural conference in Leicester between the 9th and 11th October 2015. GO4IT Consulting are very pleased to announce our sponsorship of this exciting event. Attracting speakers from industry, academia and from the biometrics and forensic worlds the agenda is full and attendance at this event is highly recommended. 

There has never been a better time to join EUIAI and to ensure you have a place at the conference in October.

Visit for information.

Use of mobile biometrics reaches the tipping point

Market research firm Research and Markets has issued a new report on the future of mobile biometrics, and says that the industry has “reached a tipping point”. The researchers predict that the market will grow from $249 million this year to $3.5 billion in 2024, with cumulative revenue reaching $17.5 billion over that period.

The report points to Apple and its iPhone devices as major drivers of the biometrics revolution, and rightly so. With the implementation of the TouchID fingerprint scanning system in the latest Apple mobile devices the company paved the way for consumer adoption of the technology for authentication purposes, and for the rise of mobile commerce and payments. The Research and Markets report points out that Apple’s technological efforts have consistently been matched by its Android competitors, which has further spurred the evolution of the mobile biometrics market and helped to make biometric technology widespread on newer smartphones.

The report also points to finance and government as the two main sectors in the market. Online banking and banking via mobile apps is helping to push banks to implement biometric security, as we’ve seen in apps like the USAA mobile app and in the efforts of large institutions like the Royal Bank of Scotland to adopt TouchID security. Additionally, in the government sector there is a wide range of mobile biometric deployments, from the use of mobile fingerprint scanners by law enforcement officials to monetary transactions with citizens.

Home Office publishes the Science and Technology - Sixth Report 
Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies

The Home Office have published this very useful and informative report that raises some very pertinent concerns and recommendations. It draws on a lot of the work that Clive has been involved in during his many years working in the fingerprint, forensic and biometrics worlds.

The full report can be read/downloded from HERE

Prosecutors criticize D.C. crime lab’s handling of some DNA evidence


D.C. prosecutors have stopped sending DNA evidence to the city’s new state-of-the-art crime lab after they said they discovered errors in the way analysts determined whether a sample can be linked to a suspect or a victim.

Prosecutors have hired two outside DNA experts to review 116 cases, including rapes and homicides, and have been notifying defense attorneys.

In one federal case, prosecutors said, the D.C. lab concluded that a defendant’s DNA could have been on the magazine of a gun seized as evidence. But an expert who reviewed the data said the lab should have interpreted the results to mean that the defendant was not the source of the DNA.

In other cases, prosecutors said, the lab either understated or overestimated the likelihood that a particular person’s DNA was left at a crime scene.

Officials at the Department of Forensic Sciences, which is located in a $220 million facility that opened in 2012, defend their work and say disagreements among scientists in the field are not uncommon. The dispute has essentially created a standoff between the city-run lab and federal prosecutors in the nation’s capital.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. ­Machen Jr. said that his office has been paying to send evidence for testing at outside labs and that so far an additional 102 cases have been farmed out. At the same time, independent experts are taking a fresh look at the cases analyzed by the District’s lab.

“To date, we have not found any evidence to suggest any wrongful conviction and have not acted to dismiss any cases,” Machen said in a statement. “However, in an abundance of caution, we are conducting a rigorous review of the analysis done in current and older cases to ensure that criminal defendants are treated fairly.”

Max M. Houck, director of the Department of Forensic Sciences, said that the lab follows the same protocols in place at many city and state labs across the country and that experts may disagree on how to interpret evidence. The lab has made recent improvements, he said, but he stands by the work done before those changes.

See full story HERE

US Customs test facial recognition

Washington Dulles Airport is quietly starting a pilot program to use facial recognition at customs checkpoints. The "Targeted Biometrics Program" will check passenger faces against a database of IDs to determine if the passengers are who they say they are. But the plan is drawing the ire of civil liberties groups.

Customs officials say the program isn't targeting everyone. Agents can choose passengers at random for the identification procedure, with no opt-out available. The new photograph taken is checked against the one stored in the passport chip, which then determines how closely the two match. The first phase of the program is expected to last 60 to 90 days, after which time Customs officials determine the effectiveness of the program to decide whether it will be deployed to other airports.


Customs claims that the device won't store the images and build a database, though, as Motherboard points out, that's exactly what was said of the full body scanners from the TSA that are so famously popular.

Whatever happened to the Police IT Organisation Roadmap? And is it still relevant?

It seems an age now since I was given the task of producing an update to the PITO Identification Roadmap! I was very proud of this piece of work as it gave a clear and concise view as to how the police services of England and Wales would plan out their use of Biometrics right up to 2020. But with the demise of PITO and then the NPIA, where did it go and is it ever referred to now? Somehow I doubt it. But its format and relevance to the adoption of Biometrics in both the public and private sectors still holds. It is just that there isn't a body to drive it any more.


You can download the Roadmap from HERE

Privacy concers as Biometrics used more frequently in schools

More than a million pupils have been fingerprinted at their secondary school - thousands without their parents’ consent, according to new research published on Friday.

Figures show that four out of 10 secondary schools now use biometric technology as a means of identifying pupils - with nearly a third failing in their duty to seek parental consent before introducing the system.

The figures are based on Freedom of Information request returns from 1,255 schools to the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch with the group warning pupils will grow up believing “it is normal to be tracked like this all the time”.

The most common uses of the system are at meal-times where headteachers claim it can be a more “discreet” method of ensuring those pupils entitled to free school meals get them - and in school libraries.  Some have used the system for registration of pupils at school.

Based on the FOI returns in September, Big Brother Watch estimates 1.28 million pupils have been fingerprinted. Of those surveyed, an estimated 31 per cent did not consult parents before using biometric technology from September.

“Going to school should not mean kids are taught that they have no privacy, especially at a time when we are sharing more data about ourselves than ever before,” said Nick Pickles. director of Big Brother Watch.

“Fingerprinting them and tracking what they do might save some admin work but the risk is pupils think it is normal to be tracked like this all the time.  Schools need to be transparent about what data is being collected and it is used,

“Parents will be rightly concerned to hear so many schools did not seek their permission to fingerprint their children while pupils may not have been made aware they now have a legal right to ask to use a system that doesn’t require a fingerprint to be taken.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - which represents secondary school heads, said: “It is significantly easier for schools to use this system in a number of ways - for example for taking things pout of libraries and at meal-times. 

“Most kids don’t lose their fingers whereas losing cards is far more likely.  This cuts down on the need for youngsters to carry cards.  Children can also have their cards stolen or be bullied for them.”

The system also meant pupils entitled to free school meals no longer had to present a card which could identify them to other pupils.

Mr Trobe insisted its use did not mean pupils were being fingerprinted as in what would happen in a police station.  “IT is a number recognition system - whereby the fingerprint is translated into a number.  Schools will destroy the information once the pupil leaves the school.”

He said that its introduction at the school where he taught until five years ago saw “only the odd parent” registering an objection - “one or two out of 650/700 families”.

Sion Humphreys, policy adviser to the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “Schools can find this technology extremely useful to help efficiently administer systems like cashless catering and borrowing library books.  As a result, the use of biometrics is likely to become more widespread.

“NAHT does not have a problem with biometrics as an administrative tool but schools must comply with the guidelines to ensure pupil privacy is protected.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “It is absolutely right that parents should decide how their child’s personal data is used.

“That is why we changed the law so parents now have the right to prevent schools and colleges - including independent schools - using their children’s biometric data.

“Schools and colleges must now ensure that written consent is obtained from parents before a child’s biometric data is taken and used and must make alternative arrangements if the request is refused.”

Mr Trobe said many schools would include the consent form as part of a list of items for which the school needed parental consent given to parents when their child enrolled at the school.

The future of Biometrics? PaybyAss spoof

Could this be the latest in Biometrics? Somehow we doubt it :-)

List of Worst Passwords Highlights Need for Biometric Authentication

A new list of the worst passwords of 2014 has been released by SplashData, and unfortunately little has changed from previous years. The new list reveals that “123456” and “password” have topped the list once again, as they have ever since SplashData’s first list back in 2011.
The year did see a bit of novelty, however: “batman” and “696969” were new additions to the list, while, depressingly, “iloveyou” has fallen away, having been a contender in 2013. The company says people also tend to use simple number-based passwords, favorite sports, birthdays, and the names of loved ones – all big mistakes as they are easily guessable and fall right into the hands of automated password-guessing software.
While the company recommends using more complex passwords – and it’s undoubtedly a good idea to use a complex password in place of a simple one – there are other options for digital security, namely biometrics. Such technology is increasingly being used to secure data, with mobile phone applications leading the way in the form of fingerprint-scanners, and other methods of authentication on the rise, from iris-scanning to behavioural biometrics. Moreover, a recent study indicated that young people tend to favor such methods over passwords, which suggests their popularity will only increase in the near future, and passwords may be phased out of relevance.


Biometrics will spell the end for passwords by 2020, or maybe!

Director of Business Development at FacebanxTop Contributor

Whether passwords will completely go is very debateable. Personally, I think it is unlikely within five years although the dependency for passwords will certainly diminish and the move to a more frictionless access to our accounts is going to become more common. 

To be totally dependent on biometrics for authentication is currently not possible, the technology still has to catch up, but combining at least two biometrics together, such as face and voice for example, does make it far more secure and not easy to spoof! 

The biometrics industry still has to do a better job at education as well as reassuring consumers over privacy and data protection. The fact that the fingerprint has already been compromised does not help!

Roland Moore-Colyer writes that nearly half of people aged 16 to 24 foresee the end of passwords and pin numbers by 2020 as biometric security takes over, according to research by Visa.

The research of 2,000 people revealed that 69% of respondents aged between 16 and 24 - dubbed 'Generation Z' - believe it will be easier and faster to use biometric identification than remembering passwords and pin numbers.

This age group is also keen to adopt biometric security. Some 76% feel comfortable with the concept of making payments using biometric data.

Jonathan Vaux, executive director at Visa Europe, says that the use of biometric authentication in smartphones as seen in Apple's latest iPhones will help drive demand for the technology.

"Fingerprint biometrics in particular are entering the mainstream as a security measure, with the likes of Apple and Samsung relying on biometric security to enter their phones, and more recently the launch of Touch ID and Apple Pay," he said.

Generation Z also favours fingerprint scanning over other forms of biometric identification, the research revealed.

Nearly 70% expressed a desire to use fingerprints rather than passwords, while 39% favour retina scans and 27% favour face recognition.

Vaux explained that biometrics technology will continue to evolve, offering more secure identification by scanning vein patterns in fingers rather than fingerprint systems which can be hacked.

This evolution of biometrics and increased demand from consumers will break down the scepticism and criticism that some consumers show for the technology.

"We mustn't discount biometrics as a viable form of security. When passwords were first introduced consumers needed to be educated on how to be safe and secure when using them," said Vaux.

However, Vaux does not believe that passwords will disappear completely, but will become a secondary layer of security to further reduce the risk of fraud.

"There are some concerns surrounding biometric security measures, such as whether fingerprints can be reproduced. Biometric security could be coupled with password or Pin authentication to maintain higher levels of security," he said.

"In the future there may not be one security measure, but a combination of several - the biometric equivalent of two-step authentication."

Biometric security is undoubtedly becoming more widespread. Apple added its TouchID fingerprint scanner to the latest range of iPads and iPhones, and Barclays has introduced a tool that scans the vein patterns in a finger.

HID Global Predicts Greater Interconnectivity, Security for Tech World of 2015

Identity solutions provider HID Global has announced its predictions for technology trends for the coming year. The company, which offers a range of products and services for the purposes of access control, credential management, and other such applications, overall predicts a proliferation of interconnected technologies, and a greater integration of biometrics.
One of the major trends predicted by the company is increased interoperability between devices and technologies. That seems especially likely in the context of the burgeoning Internet of Things, which well see various everyday devices and technologies connected as never before. And that, of course, will require heightened security, as experts have advocated, and that’s where biometrics technology comes in; in a press release, the company suggested that biometric technology will “help change security from a barrier to a guardrail,” and indeed, in addition to providing an enhanced level of security, a lot of biometric technology seems to also vastly improve the user experience in terms of convenience and ease of access.
Other major predictions of note from HID Global include increased use of contactless methods of access control, enhanced government ID solutions, and advanced identity authentication solutions in the management of medical narcotics. Interestingly, HID Global places little emphasis on the proliferation of NFC payment technology, which was just named by Deloitte as the probable top tech trend of the year. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to disagree with the general thrust of the company’s predictions as the tech world hurtles forward.
Story from HERE


The USAA bank, based in Texas, is the first major bank to offer consumers the option of using voice and facial recognition technologies to log into their accounts over mobile devices.

The move extends the mobile app’s multifactor authentication options to include a unique PIN, face and voice recognition - all of which work in conjunction with a security code generated by the app for each login. 

Gary McAlum, USAA’s chief security officer, says: “The use of multifactor authentication through biometrics is one of the most effective ways to increase security protection as traditional passwords become increasingly obsolete.”

USAA’s facial recognition requires users to look at the screen and, when prompted, blink their eyes. For voice recognition, users must read a short phrase. The nationwide roll out follows a successful pilot in California, Texas and Florida.

The new option will be available through an update to the USAA mobile app for iOS and Android devices. 

McAlum says the financial services group also plans to test the use of fingerprint identification for future iterations of the app.
A report released today by Juniper Research forecasts that more than 770 million biometric authentication applications will be downloaded per annum by 2019, up from just six million this year and dramatically reducing dependence on alphanumeric passwords in the mobile phone market.

Meanwhile, research just published by Visa Europe indicates that three-quarters of 16- to 24-year-olds are ready to ditch passwords in favour of biometric security measures such as facial recognition, fingerprint and retina scanning.

In a survey of over 2000 UK adults, 76% said they would feel comfortable making a payment using biometric security and 69% believe this would make their lives faster and easier.

This has to be very good news for the biometrics industry as more and more banks will offer their customers a simple frictionless way to enrol and access their bank accounts. While the fingerprint is being used by Apple Pay and PapPal, both face and voice biometrics will start to be deployed by the major banks. The mobile wallet is where the battleground will take place. Apple are also rumoured to have facial recognition in the pipeline with the new iPhone releases or updates. We shall see! 


Press story is HERE


The Origins of Identity

From earliest times, man has sought means to determine who was and who was not a member of a particular group; or who was to be accorded specific rights and privileges as a result of his relationship with or status within a group.

As civilization moved beyond a point that everyone in a community knew everyone else, names, (frequently reflecting paternal lineage or one's role in a community - John's son, or John Smith - are examples) were adopted. But when the number of "John Smiths" increased to a point where name alone could no longer clearly discriminate, or when John Smith ventured farther out in a world where he knew no one, and nobody knew him, other identity conventions were needed.


Identity and the ability to authenticate it is a critical component of collective security in a world where ideas, information and capital move at the push of a button, and where anyone can get anywhere in a matter of hours. Today, personal identity and the ability to prove it can influence where one lives, where one can travel, whether one can be trusted as a partner in commerce, as well as one's ability to access information or resources.


As we face new social, political, and economic challenges in the 21st century, it is fitting that underpinnings of collective security rest on biometrics, technologies that reflect the uniqueness of the men, women and children living in societies we strive to create and improve upon.


These biometric technologies can make our world safer and reduce risk. Biometrics can also introduce convenience and labor-saving to our lives. Biometrics can help re-engineer business processes, helping private enterprise to thrive and reducing burdens on strained public sector infrastructures so they can be more productive for constituents. And biometrics can do all this, not at the expense of privacy, but rather by assuring privacy's very survival.


Biometrics - Physical & Behaviorally-Based Identity Authentication

Instead of basing identity authentication on what someone possesses or what someone knows, biometric identification is based on what one is, or how one behaves, This approach to identification is made possible by technology developments that enable precise measurement coupled with computational power that allows measurements to be transformed into mathematical representations that can be rapidly compared.

  • The Unique Physical Attribute
    Fingerprints on cards, and lifted from the scene of a crime have been used for more than one hundred years as proof of individual identification for forensic and law enforcement purposes. Once time-consumingly collected as inked sets on cards, they are now routinely collected by electronic or optical sensors that turn patterns once only defined as whorls and arches into mathematical representations called biometric templates. Other physical attributes that can be measured and converted into mathematical representations include: faces, fingerprints, hands, iris patterns, retinal patterns, vein patterns, voice patterns, and DNA. Exploratory work has been done to establish whether physical characteristics such as earlobes and body odor can be effectively measured, mathematically represented, and rapidly compared for use in electronic identity authentication.
  • The Unique Behavioral Attribute
    Measurable mathematical values that can be quickly compared to establish an association with a specific person can be assigned to not only physical traits, but also to behavioral traits. Templates reflecting individual characteristics exhibited in signing one's name - the speed, angle of the pen and pressure exerted, as well as the physical appearance of the signature itself-are used in signature dynamics. Unique patterns that emerge in studying individual self-expression are not limited to handwriting. The way one interacts with a keyboard can also be studied, measured, and committed to mathematical representation in keystroke dynamics. And behavioral attributes aren't relegated to things related to up-close personal expression. The unique ways in which a person moves when walking can be, and is observed, measured and expressed mathematically in a technique known as gait recognition-one of the biometric technologies most suited to personal identification at a distance.

Benefits of Biometrics Compared to Traditional Identity Conventions

One approach to establishing the identity of an individual was based on tokens. A token was, and remains, something a person possesses and uses to assert a claim to identity. The passport that once took the form of a letter from the king asking all who saw it to guarantee safe passage to the bearer-- is still one of many tokens, things one possesses, routinely used for personal identification.


Sometimes ascertaining identity required an individual have some specific special knowledge, known only by a person with bonafides. Whether a single word, a phrase, an alphanumeric combination entered on a keyboard, or a response to a challenge - "last four digits of your social," "mother's maiden name," or "shortstop for the Dodgers," etc. - what one knows remains a common practice in deciding whether an individual's claim of identity should stand - or not.


While widely used to this day, tokens and special knowledge are by themselves no longer sufficient to authenticate identity. If in possession of the token or facsimile, or having by accident or design acquired the required piece of knowledge, it is relatively easy to represent that one is someone, whom in fact, they are not.


With thanks to the IBIA, the original text may be found HERE

Wearable devices to fuel uptake in Biometrics

A new report from Goode Intelligence forecasts that the global adoption of wearable biometric technology will reach 604 million users by 2019, which will mainly be driven by wearable devices.

The first wave of adoption will mainly driven by biometric authentication in Smart Mobile Devices including smartphones, while the next wave is expected to be led by the integration of biometrics into wearable technology including smartwatches, bands, ear-pods, jewellery and glasses.

Goode Intelligence founder Alan Goode said: "We believe that smartphones and tablets will be the first wave of consumer devices to be biometrically-enabled and this will quickly be followed by wearable technology.

"What will be truly transformational about the use of biometrics on wearable devices is the birth of the universal authenticator - a device that intuitively knows who we are, where we are, what we want to do and can open doors - both physically and virtually."

Further, the 'Mobile and Wearable Biometric Authentication: Market Analysis and Forecasts 2014-2019' report adds that the users of mobile biometric authentication systems will reach 393 million by the end of the year and would continue all through the next year.

"This industry will continue to witness high growth and widespread adoption around the world for the foreseeable future."

The report also added that ultra-connected wearable devices, leveraging a range of in-built sensors and short-range radio capabilities, will offer continuous out-of-band authentication for payments, internet of things (IoT); and Enterprise Authentication.

Mobile Biometrics market growth to exceed 125%

Research firm TechNavio has released a new report predicting enormous growth for the Global Mobile Biometrics Market. The researchers assert that between 2014 and 2019, we’ll see an annual growth rate of 128.4 percent (CAGR).
This is a significantly higher rate of growth than the rates predicted for the overall global biometrics market – which are nevertheless very encouraging in themselves – and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Mobile applications are one of the leading market drivers in the world of biometrics, thanks in large part to the rise of mobile commerce, which has spurred smartphone manufacturers to install biometric security on their devices as a standard feature. In the coming year, we’ll see multiple mCommerce platforms launch and compete in the enormous Chinese market, which will likely be a major factor in driving mobile biometrics growth.
The TechNavio report also points to the areas of social networking websites and online gaming as important factors, noting that they’re popular venues whose users are often vulnerable to online identity theft. And the researchers also highlight the increasing adoption of biometrics in two-factor authentication systems, which they call “a cost-effective approach” that nevertheless offers “stronger security”.


Airlines less safe than ever - Steven King ConnectAndSell Inc


A reported hack of American Airlines on Tuesday, January 13 is worrisome not because of the compromise of thousands of credit cards but rather because of the hijacking of their frequent flyer program, AAdvantage.

Why? Because all the hijackers need to do now is match bogus travel credentials with their member tickets and voila, they will enjoy all the benefits that accrue to actual frequent flyers chief among which is significantly less TSA scrutiny and process than their non-member companion travelers.

Less TSA scrutiny and less process translates to simplified and less invasive airport security, which leads to another round of terrorist attacks involving airplanes.

American Airlines reports that only a fraction of their accounts were hacked (only 10,000) and that “they believe” only a small percentage of those sustained any fraudulent activity. Now, I don’t know exactly how they would know that, but they seem to think all is well in AAdvantage-land.

Yesterday’s hack follows a similar incident at United Airlines that came to light in late December, when the company notified several thousand of its MileagePlus members that intruders accessed their frequent flier accounts. Those intruders were able to make a mileage transaction, such as booking a ticket, in only a few dozen cases (to date).

It turns out that frequent flier accounts aren't subject to PCI compliance, money laundering scrutiny or mandatory dual-factor authentication. The lack of dual-factor identification makes the thieves’ job easier when re-using usernames and passwords across multiple websites. Since the majority of consumers use the same online credentials for multiple websites, it is ridiculous that airlines would assume their customers’ credentials have not been compromised, given the two most recent airline program breaches.

Dual factor is slightly more complicated and costly to implement but it would go a long way toward protecting a valuable asset like frequent fliers. Airlines should also beef up their password policies, even insisting on the use of password managers. This sort of change is of course not limited to airlines and frequent-flier miles, but should be insisted upon for all on-line transactions.

I mean it is after all 2015 and these threats are real and daily now and to press the air travel analogy further, we have learned to put up with a lot more inconvenience when travelling than ever before in exchange for some basic safety measures. Why not take the logical next step in fortifying the security of our personal information with online transactions as well?

Airlines in particular should also consider other alternatives to common username and password account access, such as through biometric authentication, which will soon be a standard feature on smart phones.

Biometric access used in conjunction with other security layers, including encryption of account information and behavioral analytics should put an end to threat considerations about terrorists using our frequent-flyer programs to purchase and execute travel based on those tickets, without increased physical security.

In the meantime, let’s hope we don’t end up sitting next to a future shoe-bomber who managed to get seated in 8D on our next flight to Chicago.

Time to recognise the 'under dogs' of forensics/biometrics


My good friend Dr David Charlton (A Ridge Too Far) has rightly pointed out to me that too few of the real workers who give so much time, energy and experience to the forensic and biometrics worlds get the recognition they are due. But there is a mechanism for changing this and if you know anybody that you feel deserves recognition, why not nominate them?


Nominations can be made via National Honours

Bridging the gap between academia and idustry


Revisiting the still current topic that discussed by the IET in 2012, with input from Clive Reedman.

About the presentation

Despite the fact that increasing numbers of governments and companies are turning to biometrics, a gap often remains between what happens in the research laboratory and what is required to turn good ideas into practical systems.

Encouragingly, there are already some good links between academia and the biometrics industry, and there is a healthy track record of innovative, fast-growing companies spinning out from universities in the UK and elsewhere.


Discussion video

Will Biometrics change the face of banking?


In an age of easier switching, banks are under an increasing pressure to find ways to enhance a customer experience and retain their business.

So what do banks do when they want to find new and innovative ways to make a customer journey more interesting, personal and secure? They turn to technology.

Some of the particularly fascinating technology that’s making its way into the bank of the future involves the different ways you can use an individual’s unique physiological or biological characteristics. Banks are using these features to find new ways to identify and engage with their customers. Let’s explore some of these in more detail.

Face biometrics

As the customer enters the branch their identity is automatically recognised by cameras equipped with facial biometric recognition capabilities. The system operates unobtrusively and can recognise faces even at an angle of 25-30 degrees. The cameras link to customer records, meaning that members of staff can welcome the customer by name, have their relevant information ready on screen, along with the relevant customer information such as the types of products they currently have or need quickly.

Demographic sensing digital signage

Making sure that window or in-branch signage is up-to-date and consistent across branches can pose a challenge for banks. Digital signage can help address this challenge. It’s equipped with a camera that uses facial biometrics to monitor passers-by and analyse their characteristics to push out information that might be suited to their demographic. Or it can be used while customers are waiting to see an adviser. They can tap the screen to indicate their area of interest and be routed instantly to more product information and options.

Gesture signage

Replacing a traditional counter with a surface teller, a large touch screen embedded in a flat counter, can change the way staff interact with customers, moving the interaction into an open plan environment. Bank staff and customers can discuss products and services on the interactive electronic display, moving product information or application forms back and forth to each other across the surface as they talk. And by touching their NFC-enabled mobile to the surface, customers can quickly download brochures or information to their smart phones, cutting out the need to carry around paper copies.

Palm vein readers

Who needs a chip and pin device when you have a hand! Palm veins are said to be more unique than finger prints. So banks could move towards using a palm vein biometric reader to authenticate the customer’s identity for transactions like large cash withdrawals. This will help remove much of the repetitive work associated with routine banking transactions, including identity checks. And it could help to decrease fraudulent transactions.

Speech to speech translation

Language barriers could be broken down using a combination of speech recognition, language translation, and speech synthesis. This means a conversation can be held between two parties effectively, even when they are speaking different languages. So a customer can enter any one of a bank’s global branches and communicate effectively with staff.

What is clear is that the branch still has a role to play in customer’s lives, they continue to visit branches to seek help and advice and carry out routine transactions. But the question facing banks today is how to maintain and evolve their branch estate in a landscape where technology, regulation, payments and customer behaviour are moving at such a pace that the future remains unpredictable.

While some of this technology is a little way off wide scale adoption, one thing that is certain is that high street banks will need to adapt to reflect the changing technological preferences of their customers. The evolution of the digital bank is upon us.

Article by Fabrice de Windt, VP Europe and global business development, BT Global Services

Voice Biometrics in a nutshell

Voice biometrics authenticates your customers through natural voice patterns, not robotic PINs, passwords, and questions. It’s a level up in security. It’s a brand new user experience. It's a service differentiator for your business.


Simpler authentication.
With much less pain and effort for the customer, they feel more in control. And a happier customer is a more valuable customer.

Wipe out fraud.
Knowledge-based security is nearing obsolescence. Voice biometrics is the chance to start again from scratch. It’s not a patch. It’s not a reboot.

Almost-instant ROI.
Whether it’s shorter call times, increased functionality, or the ability to do amazing new things with your mobile apps, voice authentication can deliver from day one.

For the corporation.
Knowledge-based security is easily compromised. The four-digit PIN is the weakest credential as it’s often shared and a brute force attack can quickly compromise it without any knowledge of the legitimate account holder. Passwords and security questions can be successfully answered with simple web searches of the account holder.Voice biometrics cannot be compromised in this way. Because a voiceprint is a hashed string of numbers and characters, a compromised voiceprint has no value to a hacker. Not only that, each time a fraudster speaks within an IVR, call center or mobile app, they leave behind their own voiceprint that can be used to proactively keep them out of the system and even alert law enforcement. The power of the voice really is in your hands.

The importance of being SMART in 10 steps

1. In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia - Author Unknown. Get very clear about your goals. It helps you avoid the 'Rinse and Repeat Trap' - get up in the morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, fall asleep in front of the TV, stumble to bed, get up the next morning, rinse and repeat.


2. No matter how strong your memory, it's still not as strong as the weakest link. Putting your goals in writing and in a place where you read them often dramatically increases your chances for success. We can get so caught up in living day-to-day that we forget our goals. Seeing them often will remind you where you want to go.


3. We need goals that excite us about the outcome we desire and the process of getting there. It ought to be fun. If you can't bring a passion to your goals, you may want to change your goals.


4. Taking immediate action helps build excitement and momentum. Once you set a goal you must do one of two things - either don't leave the place where you set the goal without taking an action toward completing the goal or don't go to bed that night without taking some kind of action. Make a phone call, create a plan, do your research, whatever needs to happen to get you started.


5. You need an action plan, a map. How are you going to get there? What's the first step, the second, and then the next and the next? The most common cause of failed goals is lack of a plan. Ask others "How would you go about achieving this goal?" Find someone who has already created a map to get there and adapt it for you own life.


6. When do you want it? How much of it do you want? How long do you want it? How will you and others know when you get there? What will be different? And my favourite question; what will you be able to do once you reach your goal that you can't do now?


7. Committing your goals into writing holds you accountable to yourself. Telling someone else about your goals allows someone else to help hold you accountable. We all need someone who will hold our hand to guide us along and someone who will hold our feet to the fire when we begin to think about giving up.


8. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said There is no such thing as a wish without the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however. Goals require work. So do many things worth doing.


9. You want to be Consistent, Persistent and Resistant. Consistent in your efforts each day. Persistent to keep going when it gets tough. Resistant to both the desire to give up and to those who might say you cannot do it.


10. No matter how small or how big the goal, celebrate when you are successful. You worked hard, you deserve it and it's fun. Celebration reinforces all your efforts and builds momentum for the next goals.

Politician's fingerprint 'cloned from photos' by hacker

A member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) hacker network claims to have cloned a thumbprint of a German politician by using commercial software and images taken at a news conference.

Jan Krissler says he replicated the fingerprint of defence minister Ursula von der Leyen using pictures taken with a "standard photo camera".

Mr Krissler had no physical print from Ms von der Leyen.

Fingerprint biometrics are already considered insecure, experts say.

Mr Krissler, also known as Starbug, was speaking at a convention for members of the CCC, a 31-year-old network that claims to be "Europe's largest association" of hackers.

'Wear gloves'

He told the audience he had obtained a close-up of a photo of Ms von der Leyen's thumb and had also used other pictures taken at different angles during a press event that the minister had spoken at in October.

Mr Krissler has suggested that "politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public" after hearing about his research.

Fingerprint identification is used as a security measure on both Apple and Samsung devices, and was used to identify voters at polling stations in Brazil's presidential election this year, but it is not considered to be particularly secure, experts say.

Living biometrics

"Biometrics that rely on static information like face recognition or fingerprints - it's not trivial to forge them but most people have accepted that they are not a great form of security because they can be faked," says cybersecurity expert Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University.

"People are starting to look for things where the biometric is alive - vein recognition in fingers, gait [body motion] analysis - they are also biometrics but they are chosen because the person has to be in possession of them and exhibiting them in real life."

In September this year Barclays bank introduced finger vein recognition for business customers, and the technique is also used at cash machines in Japan and Poland.

Electronics firm Hitachi manufactures a device that reads the unique pattern of veins inside a finger. It only works if the finger is attached to a living person.

Trials in the intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital in 2013 indicated that vein patterns are not affected by changes to blood pressure.


From BBC

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