Board Member Profile: Michael Bruce, Treasurer
1. How did you first get involved in the biometrics industry?
I first learned about identity management in the late 1990’s, while working with the US Postal Service on identity proofing and secure documents. This spawned a Palo Alto identity management and proofing startup – SilentTrust – funded by Softbank. Ahead of its time, the startup closed with the end of the DOT-COM bubble. As a federal government program manager focused on the operational and policy aspects of biometrics, I developed a biometric identification program required for use by more than 50,000 agency employees. Later, working on a separate government program, I helped develop the policy framework for the implementation of a nationwide vetting system. My journey through the biometrics industry over the last three decades has shown that, with the right processes and audit mechanisms, identity management systems can be used for specific needs and citizen rights are protected.
2. As you look the biometrics industry today, what do you believe the biggest opportunities are in the coming 12-24 months?
Applying biometric technologies to more mainstream and customer convenience applications, outside of its origins in law enforcement and other government agencies, is the biggest opportunity in the near-term. We’re already seeing some of this today, with most smartphones leveraging fingerprint, iris, and facial identification to secure various applications in which a source of verifiable identity is required. But there are still many use cases yet to be explored and deployed that can lead to incredible advances in convenience and security for everyone.
3. With so much press attention being paid to biometric issues including facial recognition, what do you think federal policymakers need to know about the technology and its use by law enforcement agencies?
It’s important for policymakers to understand that biometric technology is a useful tool to assist law enforcement agencies when the right verifiable and auditable process and practices are in place. We’ve already seen examples of local jurisdictions following established policies that have been broadly upheld.
4. What federal government agencies stand out as leaders on biometrics deployment, and why?
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are both leaders in the effective use of biometrics as part of the Trusted Traveler programs. Similarly, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are successfully leveraging biometrics to create benefits cards for immigrants. I highlight these government agencies because they have found the appropriate balance between using this technology to collect and hold biometrics for millions of citizens and residents for specific and defined needs, and establishing safeguards through program rules and policies designed to protect this information and ensure privacy.
5. What do you think is the public’s single biggest misconception about biometrics, and how would you correct the record?
The greatest misconception is that biometric technologies are commonly deployed without rules and oversight. I expect this belief will change when the public starts to see the myriad ways in which biometrics are used in the commercial space to improve security and non-repudiation.
6. As Board Member of IdTA, what do you hope to accomplish for the organization, and the industry?
I’m focused on helping IdTA develop a policy agenda to enable use of biometric/identity technologies while establishing safeguards to prevent abuse. No technology is inherently good or bad, beneficial or dangerous. Instead, how society decides to use the technology is what determines its value, and I’m excited to be part of the conversation about we develop and deploy biometric technology and the policies needed to make sure it benefits all of us.