In recent years, Alcatraz AI has enjoyed a fast-rising profile in the biometrics and access control spaces thanks to its flagship solution, The Rock, which has earned wide acclaim, including the designation of one of Innovation & Tech Today’s “Top 50 Most Innovative Products” last year. That excitement, generated in large part by Alcatraz’s ongoing technological innovation, has also helped the company to attract top talent: Last month, Alcatraz announced that Dean Geribo, the head of security for the vaccine maker Moderna, had joined its advisory board. Geribo praised both the The Rock itself and Alcatraz’s “phenomenal” team, which he said “understands the needs and opportunities within the access control segment and are creating a platform to scale with the industry.”
The basis for that enthusiasm comes through clearly in FindBiometrics’ latest interview with Alcatraz AI CEO Tina D’Agostin, who spoke with Editor in Chief Peter Counter about The Rock – including its big new remote enrollment feature – and broader, important topics of concern in the industry, including privacy and digital transformation. She also talks strategy, delving into Alcatraz AI’s recent partnerships and global growth efforts. Read on for insights from one of the leading players in biometrics and identity security.
Peter Counter, Editor in Chief, FindBiometrics: Alcatraz recently announced an innovative new feature for its Rock access control solution: mobile enrollment. This is a massive leap for biometric access. How does the remote enrollment feature work for users of The Rock?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: We’re very excited to introduce this new feature to the market. In a nutshell, Mobile Enrollment allows new or current employees and visitors to securely enroll from anywhere in seconds, through their own mobile device or tablet without having to download an application. Administrators simply send a secure link or QR code to the individuals, allowing them to use their face to enroll into the Alcatraz platform before their first day, providing a seamless onboarding experience. Mobile Enrollment reduces the time and resources needed to enroll and manage employee access, provides a much better experience for employees, and strengthens an enterprise’s security posture. An administrator can securely enroll an entire workforce in a matter of minutes. We have also delivered Privacy Consent Management which allows the company to share information on privacy and data policies with the end user and obtain written consent prior to enrollment supporting compliance with all global privacy frameworks and regulations such as GDPR, BIPA, CCPA and others.
FindBiometrics: Let’s talk a little more about the Privacy Consent Management tool. Why is it important to give users easy-to-use tools for opting-out of a biometric system?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: Consent is a critical element to any modern biometric system, as is optimizing the process in which users can give or deny consent. Individuals should be able to clearly and easily read, understand, and opt-in or out of the use of their biometric data, understand the purposes for which their biometric data is collected and how that data is safeguarded. This feature and the design of our biometric reader, the Rock support compliance with all the major privacy frameworks.
It is also incumbent upon companies to secure solutions that are designed in compliance with the latest privacy frameworks including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Illinois Biometric Information Protection Act (BIPA), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and others. They also need to ensure data is encrypted both in transit and at rest, allow users to utilize a process that includes voluntary opt-in and those privacy protections while simplifying use, and clearly retain and delete data in compliance with those requirements. The Consent Management feature and technical features of the Rock support compliance with all these aspects helping accelerate end user adoption.
FindBiometrics: The Privacy Consent Management tool signifies a major identity industry trend: users are becoming much more tech and privacy literate. How are you finding increased awareness of identity technologies is affecting the adoption of biometrics?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: People all over the world have become more comfortable with the technology, as many use it to unlock their phones via Face ID. This was made possible through both convenience and reliability. These two elements, in conjunction with proper privacy and data-protection controls, are the keys to pushing further adoption. The tech works and it makes life easier, while at the same time improving safety and security which has led to an increase in adoption. We recently completed a survey of security solution integrators and end users, and more than 60 percent believe that when privacy and technology come together, the benefits of facial biometrics are significant; in that, they improve security and allow people to move about the work environment more efficiently.
FindBiometrics: Are there still critical areas in identity and privacy that need to be clarified or demystified on a public perception level?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: One distinction that is important to point out is that facial recognition to authenticate an individual is different from facial recognition for surveillance. In surveillance, facial recognition technology typically collects biometric data from users that were often unaware that said data was collected or scraped from the internet. This data is then stored in databases that can be shared with or sold to third parties for use in surveillance or targeted marketing campaigns.
Many of the negative headlines you may see in the news are referring to the misuse of a surveillance-focused technology.
Compare this process with facial authentication where the same, or similar, biometric data is provided by a user actively engaging with the system. In this process, users are cooperative and aware that they are using the biometric system. These systems provide tools that allow companies to administer the biometric profiles to adhere to local legislation and protect the privacy of the enrolled individuals.
The other misconception is that facial biometrics are different from other biometrics such as iris, fingerprint, or palm. Any use of biometric data requires the same consent and opt-in requirements.
The third misconception is that compliance is difficult. The reality is that the regulations and laws are clear on what needs to be done to comply. Compliance is simple when you clearly communicate the policies and processes and garner consent prior to the collection of data, then adhere to the policies and processes set forth. While the violations are making headlines, virtually all of the violations failed to be transparent with end users and gain that consent prior to the use of the biometric data. This has been particularly evident with the use of fingerprint in the time and attendance environment.
FindBiometrics: The past few years have seen a surge in digital transformation, and there has been a ton of news and trend pieces about how this has lead to new fraud threats. How has increased digitization affected the physical security realm? What new physical threats have emerged, and how is Alcatraz addressing them?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: Leveraging biometric solutions for access control is becoming a major priority for physical security in many sectors. Bad actors have developed methods to bypass traditional technologies used to protect and restrict physical access, resulting in an increased demand for biometric solutions like facial authentication. Unlike traditional cards or codes, an individual’s face cannot be stolen, shared, or lost. This strengthens security while reducing friction.
One major threat that has driven demand for biometric solutions is tailgating: the entry of an unauthorized individual, either forced or accidental, behind an authorized individual. According to The Infrastructure Security and Resilience (ISR) Forum, the cost of one tailgating incident is between $500,000 to $2 million. Security, compliance, and business continuity are all at risk when tailgating occurs. Solutions like Alcatraz AI provide the technology to alert and detect tailgating, identify the perpetrator, and provide actionable data to enforce compliance with employees and other users.
For organizations across all industries, the cost of security breaches, regulatory fines for noncompliance, and potential loss from downtime could be devastating.
Watch Alcatraz AI’s innovative mobile enrollment technology in action:
FindBiometrics: Alcatraz AI recently partnered with both Genetec and Axis Communications. What role do partnerships like this play in Alcatraz’s strategy, and how important is collaboration in the physical security space?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: Partnerships with system integrators and security manufacturers play a critical role in Alcatraz AI’s go-to-market strategy. Enterprises around the world already trust firms like Genetec and Axis for their security solutions. Through these key partnerships, Alcatraz AI has the opportunity to extend biometric access control to even more organizations and help them keep spaces secure.
FindBiometrics: Alcatraz is active globally. Late last year you opened new regional offices in the European and Middle Eastern markets, and this February The Rock received certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards. How are these regions unique in their security and privacy needs, and what are you finding is the key to success on a global level?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: The need to increase security of facilities and improve people’s ability to move freely in their environment is a universal need. In the post-pandemic environment, hybrid work models have changed the traditional office hours making access security more difficult as people are no longer coming to the office with set schedules, remote environments mean individuals might need access to multiple locations versus the traditional single office, and end users prefer a touchless environment. Facial biometrics, using your face as a credential, is the only solution that allows a high-level of authentication accuracy without the disruption to movement. The other biometrics require some sort of engagement with a device that slows authentication times and the flow of people.
While privacy is a universal concern, some regions of the world make use and getting consent easier, but we have chosen to provide a solution that supports the most rigorous standards so that our users err on the side of transparency and privacy no matter their regulatory environment.
Some regions, particularly in the Nordics and the Middle East are moving to a touchless environment more rapidly than other regions.
FindBiometrics: What can we expect from Alcatraz AI in 2023?
Tina D’Agostin, CEO, Alcatraz AI: We’re constantly working on new enhancements to the Rock and our platform. We’re engaged with our enterprise customers to understand the future features and functionality they need to better secure their facilities and deliver the most efficient user experience at every point of access. Rest assured, you can expect more innovation and momentum from us. Please stay tuned in at alcatraz.ai so you don’t miss any news!