Thoughtful Biometrics

The Thoughtful Biometrics Workshop 2021

The First Thoughtful Biometrics conference was held March 8, 10, and 12 that is Monday, Wednesday and Friday - 2nd week, March 2021.

Book of Proceedings

Here is the book of proceedings for the 2021 Thoughful Biometrics

This page is an Archive of the website content.

Biometrics technology is being used in a wide range of contexts and there in this range of existing and potential uses, there are many questions about the ethical and socially good uses.



Invitation so the 2021 event why we need this event:

The Thoughtful Biometrics Workshop is creating a space to dialogue about critical emerging issues surrounding biometric and digital identity technologies.

Biometrics technology is being used in a wide range of contexts and there in this range of existing and potential uses, there are many questions about the ethical and socially good uses.

Questions include:

  • How do they work?
  • How are they being used?
  • What are the dangers of their use?
  • What are the appropriate and even good uses?
Biometric man by Welleman

Our society is complex.

The systems within it are complex and built by networks of professionals each with their own deep technical expertise.

One of the challenges we face now is that these professionals are so deep in their own fields they rarely talk to those in neighboring communities who are technologies all come together in these systems.

We note that there are discussions happening between these professionals but usually within companies and small groups bubbles that have never been open or include more individuals in an open and transparent discussion.

Our hope is this event creates more cross-pollination and exploration of the technologies along with the social and policy implications of them. We invite discussion about tangible risks/threat models and all levels from the micro to the macro systems.

We want to expand the conversation, inclusive to support “hearing” the voices at the edges.

We welcome the participation of people who ask serious questions about these systems.
We also want to invite those active in the industry who want to respond in a meaningful way to thoughtful criticism. Our vision for the workshop is inspired by our ongoing participation in

This workshop is not to “sell” biometrics products like the Connect:ID Conference or K(n)ow Identity Conference by OWI.

We have several starting axioms for this event:

  • Biometrics are a technology that is being used and will not be vanishing.
  • There are a range of uses for these technologies that can be good and can be bad.
  • We value discernment about the application of biometrics technology.

Our vision for the convene a range of constituencies whose work touches on biometrics and use in the real world.

  • Biometrics Community
  • Researchers and scientist who is looking for new ideas to work on
  • Identity Community
  • Commercial Users of systems
  • Regulators and policy makers
  • Cybersecurity Professionals
  • Privacy Professionals
  • Humanitarian Groups
  • Police Accountability Groups
  • Citizen Watchdog Groups
  • Students and Researchers

We hope that the conversations catalyzed at the event are starting points for ongoing work in fora that touch on biometrics issues.

About the Format

Our inspiration for this event comes from the Internet Identity Workshop an event uses the open space technology to co-create the agenda live the day of the event. There are no keynotes or panels, it’s all about exploring the topic with professional peers from a range of industries. We are curating videos that people who are attending can watch ahead of time to get up to speed about some of the technologies and topics of interest but the format at the event is discussion driven and about peer learning. We do know great people who will be there and it is the attendees who have a passion for learning and contributing to the event that make it the success it is.

The Conveners

Here are some of the thought leader attendees (this is like the “speaker” list for a regular conference).

Asem Othman, Biometric Scientist Perspective

As a lead biometric scientist, I was attending two types of events. Biometric conferences that are merely focused on the state of the art research. Where biometric academic researchers are looking to advance biometric systems (e.g., improving the accuracy, acquisition, template extraction, template storage, etc.). Then there are identity conferences and workshops such as IIW, where different identity ecosystems and architectures are discussed, and I always have this question: how come they discuss identity without consulting the most reliable way to do it? Biometric is the only way to prove who you are!! I am obviously biased.

Then there are these biometric and identity shows that are mainly vendor-driven industrial marketing and product showcases. In this aforementioned category of the conference, participants of these shows are conservative in sharing ideas. They are by and large “selling” biometric/identity systems to governments and enterprises that buy them at scale.

Therefore, I believe this workshop will bring developers, researchers, and thought leaders from these two interconnected communities to openly share ideas and be transparent about their concerns and issues about the other side.

Based on my interaction with both communities, I believe these concerns are merely due to misunderstanding about the basics; from one side, about biometric and the current state of the art research in the biometric space, and on the other side, the recent fast-paced development and improvement that is happening in the different identity ecosystems. Once this misunderstanding is cleared out, and knowledge transfer occurs, this workshop will create neat and doable ideas that will advance the biometric and identity development into a new and remarkable era.

Jack “John Callahan” Software architect and developer

Software developers are not biometric experts. They need guidance to build solutions that are secure and respect the privacy of individuals and organizations by preventing breaches of sensitive information in the first place. Tools like encryption based on standards within approved frameworks have long served to help developers build such solutions. Unfortunately, while biometric systems are well documented, they generally lack integration into existing authentication and authorization frameworks.

This is changing: biometric authentication is now a common feature on mobile devices and support libraries, APIs and other tools are available to developers.

Kaliya Young “Identity Woman” - Digital Identity Expert

Digital Identity experts are not biometrics experts. The role that biometrics can play in digital identity systems is varied. I had a lot of preconceived notions about biometrics before I learned more about how they actually worked and how they fit within systems. It has been eye opening to engage with Jack and Asem and my hope is that other identity experts will find value in engaging with biometric experts.
Biometrics have a great potential to be quite dangerous if abused. The ethical side of the industry see that they have great potential to address some use-cases (such as recovery) that otherwise would be very difficult.

Image Commentary

Biometric man by Welleman
CC by 3.0

This image reflects a range of different biometrics modalities.

We note that the subject in the image is a white male and this reflects one of the questions about the industry, is it true that biometrics systems are built based on a default human “the white guy”? Does this mean that women and people of color are not included, or biometric systems are inherently biased? We also note that there is a law enforcement person who is watching and accessing the data invading the privacy of the individual.

We like the image because it highlights the growing concerns about biometric function creep where biometric data can be shared and misused without users’ knowledge via these interconnected biometric systems.


This is a 3 day virtual virtual event.

March 8, 10 and 12.

It is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday the second week of March 2021. Each day will begin at 9am PST to 1pm PST / Noon EST to 5 EST.

We are looking for sponsors who want to support this kind of dialogue. We will be hosting it virtually on the same platform that IIW uses - QiQoChat.

Who came to the event?

We have invited a range of experts from diverse fields to the event.

This event doesn’t have “speakers” because we don’t have pre-planned sessions. They are all experts in their respective fields and will likely convene sessions.

Here are some of the people who have agreed to participate.

Kaliya Young Identity Woman

Producer & Co-host (Linkedin)

Kaliya Young (formerly Hamlin) is an expert in self-sovereign identity and identity on the blockchain. She is the co-author of a Comprehensive guide to Self-Sovereign Identity and is widely known as Identity Woman (its also the name of her blog and her twitter handle). She is committed her life to the development of an open standards based layer of the internet that empowers people.

Asem Othman

Biometric Scientist (Linkedin)

Dr. Asem Othman has more than ten years as a researcher, developer and leader in the biometrics space. During his doctorate research at West Virginia University, he developed a system of protecting and storing biometric templates using visual cryptography, which Veridium uses today in its VeridiumID solution. Dr. Othman performed his postdoctoral research at Michigan State University before joining the Computer Vision team at Veridium and leading research and development on their 4 Fingers TouchlessID technology. Dr. Othman holds more than 5 patents/patents pending and has published a variety of journal articles, conference papers, and key research entries.

Jack “John Callahan”

Software architect and developer (Linkedin)

Dr. John Callahan is responsible for the development of VeridiumID’s world class enterprise-ready biometric solutions, leading a global team of software developers, computer vision scientists and sales engineers. He has previously served as the Associate Director for Information Dominance at the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research Global, London UK office, via an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. John completed his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Arun Ross


Arun Ross is the John and Eva Cillag Endowed Chair in the College of Engineering and a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Michigan State University. He also serves as the Site Director of the NSF Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR). He received the B.E. (Hons.) degree in Computer Science from BITS Pilani, India, and the M.S. and PhD degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from Michigan State University.

His expertise is in the area of biometrics, computer vision and machine learning. He has advocated for the responsible use of biometrics in multiple forums including the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Identity and Security in Switzerland in 2018. He testified as an expert panelist in an event organized by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee at the UN Headquarters in 2013.

Stepahnie Schuckers


Dr. Stephanie Schuckers is the Paynter-Krigman Endowed Professor in Engineering Science in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clarkson University and serves as the Director of the Center of Identification Technology Research (CITeR), a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. She received her doctoral degree in Electrical Engineering from The University of Michigan. Professor Schuckers research focuses on processing and interpreting signals which arise from the human body. Her work is funded from various sources, including National Science Foundation, Department of Homeland Security, and private industry, among others. She has started her own business, testified for Congress, and has over 40 journal publications as well as over 60 other academic publications.

Dr. Schuckers also runs CITeR and the Biomedical Signal Analysis (BIOSAL)

Emanuela Marasco


Assistant Professor at George Mason University, Information Sciences and Technology (IST) Department and Center for Secure Information Systems (CSIS), Volgenau School of Engineering. Previously, from February 2015 to July 2017 I was a post-doctoral researcher in Pattern Recognition and Biometrics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC-C), Department of Computer Science and a member of the Video and Image Analysis lab (VIAlab). From February 2011 to January 2015, I was a post-doctoral Researcher at Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, West Virginia University and at the Center for Identification Technology (CiTeR-NSF). From February 2011 to December 2012, I was a member of the i-probe lab. I received a five-year degree (Bachelor and M.Sc.) in Computer Engineering, in March 2006, and a PhD in Computer and Automation Engineering, in December 2010, both at the University of Naples Federico II (Italy).


When attendees register we ask them about topics they would like to discuss and this is what they named.

  • Biometrics in general!
  • Basic Introductory Biometrics topics. Totally new to that industry.\
  • 101 to Biometrics.
  • Open source code and open standards around biometric templates
  • Enrollment processes and other best practices ways that people can aggregate, control and make use of the data they create with biometrics and other systems using biometrics as an authentication mechanism in order to “unlock” an individual’s authorizations.
  • Data
  • Analytics + Biometrics + Identity
  • Biometrics in SSI (2)
  • A Contactless biometrics on standard/mid-quality phone camera + voice Homomorphic Encryption of biometrics privacy & biometrics
  • Biometrics of infants and children
  • I am building a physician SSI decentralized application and we are using biometrics - we want to build it right Would love your help
  • Safe Biometrics for people who don’t own a device.
  • Biometrics in a NGOs & Government setting.
  • Ethical Biometrics and AI
  • Biometrics & SSI
  • Anything Identity / Biometrics
  • Biometrics used for authentication: fingerprint scanners, face unlock, vein scanners, iris scanners, near-infrared sensors, etc. Their applications. What makes them effective or not. What makes them secure or not. *Biometrics used for surveillance: facial recognition, gait recognition, centralized biometric databases, etc. Methods, subversion, and legal aspects.
  • Biometric education: fear of surveillance, local biometric evaluation, local and remote authentication, etc.
  • biometric auth distributed identity security
  • Infant biometrics;
  • ethics of biometrics;
  • getting to informed consent.
  • Biometrics, data retention and data aggregation
  • Surveillance Programs and Legal frameworks against coercion usable security biometric data disclosure
  • What is the role today and what could the role tomorrow be of policy makers, at all levels of US and global government?
  • Biometrics for social good.
  • Biometrics that can be used to determine Race Gender and other intersectional characteristics oversight and governance - who decides
  • Biometrics in the workplace
  • Biometric jurisdiction
  • How technical issues around biometrics can be distilled so that the general public in countries where new identity systems or other initiatives using biometrics can be better understood, debated, influenced, etc.

Potential Outcomes

The followings are some ideas about potential outcomes in no particular priority order:

  • Awareness/education around biometric modalities, weaknesses/strengths, related issues (including civil liberty issues), regulations, technical challenges
  • Standards activities guidance, awareness, reports
  • Best practices, use cases (e.g., entry-exit systems, KYC/AML, etc.)
  • Regulations - global, regional, and national
  • Roadmaps (technical, legal - including civil liberty, business) for use cases and modalities (by this community and others organizations like the BI)
  • Futures - what is the envisioned “end state” for use cases, modalities, etc. over the next year, 5 years, 10 years?

If you have any other outcome ideas, please plan to attend and feel free to reach out.