Today’s “biometrics is evil” post (Amazon One)

I can’t recall who recorded it, but there’s a radio commercial heard in Southern California (and probably nationwide) that intentionally ridicules people who willingly give up their own personally identifiable information (PII) for short-term gain. In the commercial, both the husband and the wife willingly give away all sorts of PII, including I believe their birth certificates.

While voluntary surrender of PII happens all the time (when was the last time you put your business card in a drawing bowl at a restaurant?), people REALLY freak out when the information that is provided is biometric in nature. But are the non-biometric alternatives any better?

TechCrunch, Amazon One, and Ten Dollars

TechCrunch recently posted “Amazon will pay you $10 in credit for your palm print biometrics.

If you think that the article details an insanely great way to make some easy money from Amazon, then you haven’t been paying attention to the media these last few years.

The article begins with a question:

How much is your palm print worth?

The article then describes how Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores in several states have incorporated a new palm print scanner technology called “Amazon One.” This technology, which reads both friction ridge and vein information from a shopper’s palms. This then is then associated with a pre-filed credit card and allows the shopper to simply wave a palm to buy the items in the shopping cart.

There is nothing new under the sun

Amazon One is the latest take on processes that have been implemented several times before. I’ll cite three examples.

Pay By Touch. The first one that comes to my mind is Pay By Touch. While the management of the company was extremely sketchy, the technology (provided by Cogent, now part of Thales) was not. In many ways the business idea was ahead of its time, and it had to deal with challenging environmental conditions: the fingerprint readers used for purchases were positioned near the entrances/exits to grocery stores, which could get really cold in the winter. Couple this with the elderly population that used the devices, and it was sometimes difficult to read the fingers themselves. Yet, this relatively ancient implementation is somewhat similar to what Amazon is doing today.

University of Maryland Dining Hall. The second example occurred to me because it came from my former employer (MorphoTrak, then part of Safran and now part of IDEMIA), and was featured at a company user conference for which I coordinated speakers. There’s a video of this solution, but sadly it is not public. I did find an article describing the solution:

With the new system students will no longer need a UMD ID card to access their own meals…

Instead of pulling out a card, the students just wave their hand through a MorphoWave device. And this allows the students to pay for their meals QUICKLY. Good thing when you’re hungry.

This Pay and That Pay. But the most common example that everyone uses is Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or whatever “pay” system is supported on your smartphone. Again, you don’t have to pull out a credit card or ID card. You just have to look at your phone or swipe your finger on the phone, and payment happens.

Amazon One is the downfall of civilization

I don’t know if TechCrunch editorialized against Pay By Touch or [insert phone vendor here] Pay, and it probably never heard of the MorphoWave implementation at the University of Maryland. But Amazon clearly makes TechCrunch queasy.

While the idea of contactlessly scanning your palm print to pay for goods during a pandemic might seem like a novel idea, it’s one to be met with caution and skepticism given Amazon’s past efforts in developing biometric technology. Amazon’s controversial facial recognition technology, which it historically sold to police and law enforcement, was the subject of lawsuits that allege the company violated state laws that bar the use of personal biometric data without permission.

Oh well, at least TechCrunch didn’t say that Amazon was racist. (If you haven’t already read it, please read the Security Industry Association’s “What Science Really Says About Facial Recognition Accuracy and Bias Concerns.” Unless you don’t like science.)

OK, back to Amazon and Amazon One. TechCrunch also quotes Albert Fox Cahn of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

People Leaving the Cities, photo art by Zbigniew Libera, imagines a dystopian future in which people have to leave dying metropolises. By Zbigniew Libera – https://artmuseum.pl/pl/kolekcja/praca/libera-zbigniew-wyjscie-ludzi-z-miast, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66055122.

“The dystopian future of science fiction is now. It’s horrifying that Amazon is asking people to sell their bodies, but it’s even worse that people are doing it for such a low price.”

“Sell their bodies.” Isn’t it even MORE dystopian when people “give their bodies away for free” when they sign up for Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay? While the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (acronym STOP) expresses concern about digital wallets, there is a significant lack of horror in its description of them.

Digital wallets and contactless payment systems like smart chips have been around for years. The introduction of Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Google Pay have all contributed to the e-commerce movement, as have fast payment tools like Venmo and online budgeting applications. In response to COVID-19, the public is increasingly looking for ways to reduce or eliminate physical contact. With so many options already available, contactless payments will inevitably gain momentum….

Without strong federal laws regulating the use of our data, we’re left to rely on private companies that have consistently failed to protect our information. To prevent long-term surveillance, we need to limit the data collected and shared with the government to only what is needed. Any sort of monitoring must be secure, transparent, proportionate, temporary, and must allow for a consumer to find out about or be alerted to implications for their data. If we address these challenges now, at a time when we will be generating more and more electronic payment records, we can ensure our privacy is safeguarded.

So STOP isn’t calling for the complete elimination of Amazon Pay. But apparently it wants to eliminate Amazon One.

Is a world without Amazon One a world with less surveillance?

Whenever you propose to eliminate something, you need to look at the replacement and see if it is any better.

In 1998, Fox fired Bill Russell as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a win-loss percentage of .538. His replacement, Glenn Hoffman, lasted less than a season and had a percentage of .534. Hoffman’s replacement, true baseball man Davey Johnson, compiled a percentage of .503 over the next two seasons before he was fired. Should have stuck with Russell.

Anyone who decides (despite the science) that facial recognition is racist is going to have to rely on other methods to identify criminals, such as witness identification. Witness identification has documented inaccuracies.

And if you think that elimination of Amazon One from Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores will lead to a privacy nirvana, think again. If you don’t use your palm to pay for things, you’re going to have to use a credit card, and that data will certainly be scanned by the FBI and the CIA and the BBC, B. B. King, and Doris Day. (And Matt Busby, of course.) And even if you use cash, the only way that you’ll preserve any semblance of your privacy is to pay anonymously and NOT tie the transaction to your Amazon account.

And if you’re going to do that, you might as well skip Whole Foods and go straight to Dollar General. Or maybe not, since Dollar General has its own app. And no one calls Dollar General dystopian. Wait, they do: “They tend to cluster, like scavengers feasting on the carcasses of the dead.”

I seemed to have strayed from the original point of this post.

But let me sum up. It appears that biometrics is evil, Amazon is evil, and Amazon biometrics are Double Secret Evil.

Telos enters the touchless fingerprint market

Years before COVID became a thing, the U.S. government had a desire to encourage touchless fingerprint technologies. This began many years ago with a concerted effort to capture a complete set of fingerprints in less than 15 seconds. By 2016, this had evolved to a set of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) entered into by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and several private companies.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to concentrate on just one of the listed mobile fingerprint capture technology solutions. The mobile fingerprint capture technologies from these companies were intended to support the capture of fingerprints from a standard smartphone without any additional capture equipment. (Compare this to the portal/kiosk category, which employed specialized capture equipment.)

One of NIST’s CRADA partners for mobile fingerprint capture was a company called Diamond Fortress Technologies.

Via our CRADA  relationship (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement), Diamond Fortress is currently working with NIST to develop standards dealing with best practices, certification methodology, data formatting and interoperability with legacy contact-based and inked print databases for optical acquisition systems. This will support future certification for purchase on the Government Certified Products lists.

Fast forward a few years, and Diamond Fortress Technologies’ offering is back in the news again.

Telos Corporation has acquired the ONYX touchless fingerprint biometric software and other assets of Diamond Fortress Technologies (DFT), and appears to be targeting new verticals with the technology.

Now that happened to catch my eye for one particular reason.

You see, my former employer IDEMIA used to have a monopoly on the TSA PreCheck program. If you wanted to enroll in TSA PreCheck, you HAD to go to IDEMIA. This provided a nice revenue stream for IDEMIA…well, perhaps not so nice when all of the airports lost traffic due to COVID.

Anyway, the Congress decided that one provider wasn’t optimal for government purposes, so in early 2020 other vendors were approved as TSA PreCheck providers.

WASHINGTON – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced that TSA PreCheck™ enrollment services will now be provided by Alclear, LLC; Telos Identity Management Solutions, LLC; and Idemia Identity & Security USA, LLC, expanding the opportunities that enable travelers to apply for TSA PreCheck.

Just to clarify, the company then known as Alclear is better known to the general public as CLEAR.

And the third company is Telos.

Which is now apparently moving into the touchless fingerprint space.

Now THAT is going to have an impact on enrollment.

(Bredemarket Premium) Watch a new security market evolve

Markets come and go.

When I first joined the biometrics industry in the 1990s, biometric benefits (welfare) applications were hot in the United States as states and localities deployed biometric verification solutions for benefits recipients.

However, the landscape changed over the years, and most of those biometric systems have since been shut down.

Of course, new markets also appear.

Nokia 3310 3G (20180116). By Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65577308

If someone had told me in 1994 that we would use biometrics to “unlock” our phones, I would have had no idea what the person was talking about. Why would we need to unlock our phone, anyway? Sure, if a thief grabbed my cell phone, the thief could make a long distance call to another state. But it’s not like the thief could access my bank account via an unlocked cell phone, right?

And there are other markets.

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At Bredemarket, I work with a number of companies that provide biometric systems. And I’ve seen a lot of other systems over the years, including fingerprint, face, DNA, and other systems.

The components of a biometric system

While biometric systems may seem complex, the concept is simple. Years ago, I knew a guy who asserted that a biometric system only needs to contain two elements:

  • An algorithm that takes a biometric sample, such as a fingerprint image, and converts it into a biometric template.
  • An algorithm that can take these biometric templates and match them against each other.

If you have these two algorithms, my friend stated that you had everything you need for an biometric system.

Well, maybe not everything.

Today, I can think of a few other things that might be essential, or at least highly recommended. Here they are:

  • An algorithm that can measure the quality of a biometric sample. In some cases, the quality of the sample may be important in determining how reliable matching results may be.
  • For fingerprints, an algorithm that can classify the prints. Forensic examiners routinely classify prints as arches, whorls, loops, or variants of these three, and classifications can sometimes be helpful in the matching process.
  • For some biometric samples, utilities to manage the compression and decompression of the biometric images. Such images can be huge, and if they can be compressed by a reliable compression methodology, then processing and transmission speeds can be improved.
  • A utility to manage the way in which the biometric data is accessed. To ensure that biometric systems can talk to each other, there are a number of related interchange standards that govern how the biometric information can be read, written, edited, and manipulated.
  • For fingerprints, a utility to segment the fingerprints, in cases where multiple fingerprints can be found in the same image.

So based upon the two lists above, there are seven different algorithms/utilities that could be combined to form an automated fingerprint identification system, and I could probably come up with an eighth one if I really felt like it.

My friend knew about this stuff, because he had worked for several different firms that produced fingerprint identification systems. These firms spent a lot of money hiring many engineers and researchers to create all of these algorithms/utilities and sell them to customers.

How to get these biometric system components for free

But what if I told you that all of these firms were wasting their time?

And if I told you that since 2007, you could get source code for ALL of these algorithms and utilities for FREE?

Well, it’s true.

To further its testing work, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created the NIST Biometric Image Software (NBIS), which currently has eight algorithms/utilities. (The eighth one, not mentioned above, is a spectral validation/verification metric for fingerprint images.) Some of these algorithms and utilities are available separately or in other utilities: anyone can (and is encouraged to) use the quality algorithm, called NFIQ, and the minutiae detector MINDTCT is used within the FBI’s Universal Latent Workstation (ULW).

If the FBI had just waited until 2007, it could have obtained the IAFIS software for free. FBI image taken from Chapter 6 of the Fingerprint Sourcebook, https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/225326.pdf.

As I write this, NBIS has not been updated in six years, when Release 5.0.0 came out.

Is anyone using this in a production system?

And no, I am unaware of any law enforcement agency or any other entity that has actually USED NBIS in a production system, outside of the testing realm, with the exception of limited use of selected utilities as noted above. Although Dev Technology Group has compiled NBIS on the Android platform as an exercise. (Would you like an AFIS on your Samsung phone?)

But it’s interesting to note that the capability is there, so the next time someone says, “Hey, let’s build our own AFIS!” you can direct them to https://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/image-group/products-and-services/image-group-open-source-server-nigos#Releases and let the person download the source code and build it.

Maryland will soon deal with privacy stakeholders (and they CAN’T care about the GYRO method)

Just last week, I mentioned that the state of Utah appointed the Department of Government Operations’ first privacy officer. Now Maryland is getting into the act, and it’s worth taking a semi-deep dive into what Maryland is doing, and how it affects (or doesn’t affect) public safety.

By François Jouffroy – Christophe MOUSTIER (1994), Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=727606

According to Government Technology, the state of Maryland has created two new state information technology positions, one of which is the State Chief Privacy Officer. Because government, I will refer to this as the SCPO throughout the remainder of this post. If you are referring to this new position in verbal conversation, you can refer to the “Maryland skip-oh.” Or the “crab skip-oh.”

From https://teeherivar.com/product/maryland-is-for-crabs/. Fair use. Buy it if you like it. Virginians understand the origins of the phrase.

Governor Hogan announced the creation of the SCPO position via an Executive Order, a PDF of which can be found here.

Let me call out a few provisions in this executive order.

  • A.2. defines “personally identifiable information,” consisting of a person’s name in conjunction with other information, including but not limited to “[b]iometric information including an individual’s physiological or biological characteristics, including an individual’s deoxyribonucleic acid.” (Yes, that’s DNA.) Oh, and driver’s license numbers also.
  • At the same time, A.2 excludes “information collected, processed, or shared for the purposes of…public safety.”
  • But on the other hand, A.5 lists specific “state units” covered by certain provisions of the law, including both The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Department of State Police.
  • The reason for the listing of the state units is because every one of them will need to appoint “an agency privacy official” (C.2) who works with the SCPO.

There are other provisions, including the need for agency justification for the collection of personally identifiable information (PII), and the need to provide individuals with access to their collected PII along with the ability to correct or amend it.

But for law enforcement agencies in Maryland, the “public safety” exemption pretty much limits the applicability of THIS executive order (although other laws to correct public safety data would still apply).

Therefore, if some Maryland sheriff’s department releases an automated fingerprint identification system Request for Proposal (RFP) next month, you probably WON’T see a privacy advocate on the evaluation committee.

But what about an RFP released in 2022? Or an RFP released in a different state?

Be sure to keep up with relevant privacy legislation BEFORE it affects you.

Agile content

I purposely chose the title “Agile content” for this post, because for some of you “scrummy” individuals it will easily convey what I want to say: content can be tweaked as needed.

Pair programming, an agile development technique used by XP. By Lisamarie Babik – Ted & IanUploaded by Edward, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9546406

But I could have chosen a title that did not resonate as well with modern audiences: “Newer weblog content.”

By Valleyhollandman – blogactive.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24045040

After all, some of you remember what blog (weblog) posts were back in the day. They were not conceived as permanent, immovable statements, but were more transitory (akin to diaries) and could be adapted over time.

Changing my message

Even today, I’ve practiced adaptation with two versions (so far) of Bredemarket’s goals for 2021. (Perhaps it’s time for me to look at them and see if they need revision.) And others have done the same thing, recycling and updating content.

We can practice “Agile content,” regardless of whether or not we have a good idea of what we want to say.

  • Sometimes we know what we want to communicate. We set our goal, create content that meets our goal, and share it. Back in December, I had a pretty good idea of the goals that I wanted to set for 2021, so I shared them. The subsequent tweak that I made was relatively minor.
  • But sometimes we DON’T know what we want to communicate. Perhaps you’re entering a new market or pitching a new product, and you don’t know how the potential customers are going to react. Perhaps your initial idea is COMPLETELY wrong and will need to be COMPLETELY revised.

In the latter case, rather than waiting for all the focus groups and scientific studies and everything else (which can kill productivity), one option is to put something up NOW. And if the customers don’t like parts of it, adapt the content.

Or perhaps you keep on building new content that effectively supersedes the old.

  • For example, last year I created a page here that described the Bredemarket 400E Short Editing Service. Just between you and me, I have NEVER sold this particular service, and this is the first time in months that I have mentioned it. But I never pulled the “400E” page down, because for all I know I may be contacted tomorrow by someone who has content and needs me to edit it.
  • At the same time, all of the newer content that I have created on this website and elsewhere emphasizes my writing services rather than my editing services.

Changing YOUR message

The same thing that applies to my business can also apply to yours.

Maybe you want to test some content, either broadly (by linking to the content on the main page of your website and/or on your social media) or in a limited fashion (by only selectively sharing the link to the content). As you gather feedback about the content you have created, you can either leave it as it, tweak it, make wholesale changes to it, or delete it entirely.

Of course you need to remember that past content can still hang around somewhere, because the Internet never forgets. But in some cases it’s better to try some content out NOW, rather than waiting for all the facts.

As one of my clients likes to remind me, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Which is why that same client had me create some content several months ago, and revise and expand on it as needed and as needs change. The client could have waited until now to release the content, which includes an important new product feature that couldn’t have been communicated several months ago. But then the client would have missed out on months of sales, as well as feedback on the original iteration of the content.

I’ll confess an ulterior motive: as a consultant, I get paid more to create and update content than I do to create content and do nothing with it afterwards. But the client benefits also because it starts using the content more quickly, leading to more sales.

My earlier calls to action didn’t communicate all of these options

Do you need Bredemarket’s help in content creation? Contact me.

How the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) benefits Bredemarket’s NON-proposal clients

Presumably you saw my earlier post, “I just re-rejoined the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. So what?” This post is a follow-up to the “So what?” part, specifically addressing clients of my consulting firm Bredemarket (marketing and writing services for biometric, technology, and general business firms) who DON’T use me for proposal services.

I said the following in that prior post:

But there are benefits for my Bredemarket clients who DON’T depend upon me for proposal support, but instead depend upon me for content marketing or other marketing and writing services. The same strategies and tactics that contribute to a more effective proposal can be extrapolated to apply to other areas, thus contributing to better white papers, better case studies, better blog posts, better social media posts, better marketing plans, etc., etc., etc. Again, this can help my clients win business.

(Yes, I intentionally used the words “win business.”)

Of course, now I’m in the initial process of making use of my new/old APMP membership by soaking in APMP things (while ALSO hopefully contributing things) that will benefit me and my clients.

I’ll talk about live webinars, the APMP Body of Knowledge, and the benefits for Bredemarket’s non-proposal clients.

Live webinars! Well, sometimes

My first opportunity to obtain value from my APMP membership came on Wednesday July 28, when the Western Chapter (a merger of the California Chapter and other chapters) scheduled a webinar entitled “Persuasion Through Page Architecture.” The presenter, Nancy Webb, offers over 30 years of design expertise. I recall the name, so I’ve probably attended a previous presentation of hers during my second (or perhaps even my first) stint in APMP.

Sadly, I was unable to learn from Nancy Webb on July 28. A major requirement for a webinar is the ability to access the web, and when we all logged into the webinar on Wednesday, we learned that Webb’s Internet connection was out and that the meeting would have to be rescheduled.

By Monoklon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75697420

Ah, technology.

The APMP Body of Knowledge

But MY Internet connection is working, so on Thursday afternoon I was able to visit the APMP website and poke around some more.

Which led me to the page describing the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK).

Not a body OF KNOWLEDGE, but this illustration was created by Leonardo da Vinci, so the SMA folks will like it. By Leonardo da Vinci – https://www.metmuseum.org/special/Leonardo_Master_Draftsman/tour_gallery4.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744423

And yes, I’m going to call the Body of Knowledge the BOK from now on. Bok bok bok.

By Andrei Niemimäki from Turku, Finland – Friends, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3769100

It’s no surprise that the proposals world has a slew of acronyms (more on that later).

One important thing you need to know about the APMP BOK; it’s only for APMP members.

The APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) is available to all APMP members in good standing.

Well, I haven’t done anything to lose my good standing yet, although if I were to log in to the BOK, copy all of the content, and post it here in the Bredemarket blog, I would obviously get in a heap of trouble. For one thing, Wordman would come after me.

Wordman. From https://wordmanspeaks.com/about-wordman/. Fair use. NOT created by Leonardo da Vinci; Wordman avatar created by Sean Jones (www.knitestudios.com)

As it turns out, Wordman could come after me in multiple ways. In addition to his superhero status, Wordman (Richard “Dick” Eassom) chairs the APMP Western Chapter, and is also an executive with SMA, Inc. (which I previously joined). I could get kicked out of the APMP AND SMA in one fell swoop!

(I could go off on a tangent and say why Moses was the most evil man in the Bible, but I really shouldn’t.)

(Moses broke all Ten Commandments at once.)

Um, John, let’s get back to the BOK

So I’m NOT going to go behind the firewall and redistribute the internal content of the APMP BOK.

But I CAN note what the APMP publicly says about the BOK.

TL;DR: as I’ve noted when talking about the brouhaha, the BOK and the APMP itself talk about topics that have applicability far beyond the creation of a proposal.

The topics are grouped into seven categories, which represent key practice areas for improving an organization’s business development focus:

Understand business development

Focus on the customer

Create deliverables

Lead a team

Manage processes

Train staff

Use tools and systems

Obviously, all seven of these categories apply to the creation of a proposal.

Benefits for my NON-proposal clients

And all seven of those categories just as easily apply to the creation of a blog post, case study, white paper, corporate strategy, or ANY deliverable for a customer-facing firm.

Again, I can’t speak about BOK specifics, but I spent part of Thursday afternoon reading about a topic which would have benefited me greatly in one of my NON-proposal positions with IDEMIA/MorphoTrak/Motorola/Printrak. Well, better late than never.

There are a number of helpful pieces of content in the APMP BOK, including…a list of common proposal acronyms. (CPAs??? No.)

For those who don’t know this, the major purpose of acronyms is to allow people of a small group to exchange secret communications in the presence of the non-initiated. “When you complete the response to the RFP for DoD, ensure that the collected KPIs align with the BD-CMM.” (In truth, many of these acronyms are used outside of the proposal profession, but the acronym list collects some of the important ones in one place.)

So I anticipate that I’ll be spending some significant time in the future reviewing the APMP BOK. And if all goes well, I’ll actually RETAIN something from these BOK content reviews that will result in better written content for ALL Bredemarket clients.

(And yes, Dick, I know that there’s also an SMA body of knowledge to which I have access…)

Another acronym is CTA

Incidentally, if you are a biometric (identity) or technology firm that needs a proposal (or content) consultant, feel free to contact Bredemarket.

Winding down the 28th parallel experiment

Wrapping up a few loose ends about the whole 28th parallel thingie (where I posted/shared multiple content items in a short period to see what would happen).

I just completed a podcast episode about it. (TL;DR: no huge effect.)

Yesterday, I made an observation about traffic vs. engagement on my business Twitter account.

Also yesterday, I posted an obscure trivia question on my personal Twitter account. (It didn’t really get traffic OR engagement.)

Conclusion? In the short term it didn’t help, but it didn’t harm either. And I may exercise the flexibility to increase my content sharing when warranted.

Tenerife. By NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen. – https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/88659/tenerife-canary-islands, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101333395

That was fun.

Well, my experiment is now complete.

If you missed the explanation of what I just did, I had a backlog of identity-related draft blog posts, and I decided to post all of them at once.

Specifically, I just posted:

And all four of those posts were also shared to my Twitter account, the Bredemarket Identity Firm Services showcase page on LinkedIn, and the Bredemarket Identity Firm Services group on Facebook.

Will my 140+ blog subscribers, 250+ Twitter followers, 120+ showcase page followers, and 9 group followers (yeah, Facebook lags the other platforms) be overwhelmed by this blast of content? Or will they like it? Or will they even notice?

Because of the way social media feeds work, it is questionable that many of the followers will even notice. Social media feeds are presented to readers in order of importance, and Bredemarket isn’t the most important thing to ANY of these followers. (Except for me. Maybe.)

Franchisees and BIPA

In other contexts, I have written about the relationship between franchisors and franchisees, which in some respects is similar to the way gig drivers work “with” (not “for”) Uber, Lyft, and the like. In many cases, the products that are advertised by a particular company are not made by that company, but by a franchisee of that company who is entirely separate from the parent company, but who is responsible for doing things the way the parent company wants them done. If you’re a franchisee, you CAN’T…um…”have it your way.”

This Whopper probably wasn’t made by Burger King itself, but by a franchisee of Burger King. By Tokfo – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37367904

Speaking of which, here is an example of an article that confuses franchisor and franchisee. The Buzzfeed article, in typical Buzzfeed style, is entitled “This Is What Happened After A Bunch Of Employees At A Burger King Quit.” (Because of malfunctioning air conditioning, a number of employees put in their two weeks’ notice, leaving a “We All Quit” sign as they left.) You have to read ANOTHER article (from NBC) to find this little statement:

“Our franchisee is looking into this situation to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” a Burger King spokesperson said.

Yes, the employees’…um…beef wasn’t with Burger King itself (or its Brazilian/Canadian/American parent Restaurant Brands International), but with whoever manages the local franchise.

Well, now this world of franchisors and franchisees has entered the biometric world, according to a post in Greensfelder, a self-described “franchising & distribution law blog.”

Greensfelder’s post starts by explaining to its readers what BIPA is (something you already know if you read MY blog) and how franchisees are affected.

Plaintiffs are suing both franchisors and franchisees. Franchisors are being sued for collecting the information themselves for their own employees and also for the actions of their franchisees on theories of joint and several liability, vicarious liability, agency and alter ego. A recently filed case alleges that a franchisor mandates and controls virtually every aspect of its franchise locations, including the use of certain equipment that collects biometric information to track employees’ time and attendance and to monitor cash register systems for fraud.

This benefits the lawyers, who get to collect double the damages by claiming that both the franchisor and the franchisee are separately liable.

Greensfelder’s takeaway for franchisors:

Franchisors should be careful about mandating franchisee use of biometric procedures and devices without first checking applicable law and also making sure that their own policies and procedures are in compliance with those laws.

I’m not sure who is providing takeaways for franchisees.

Other than the usual advice to read the franchise agreement very, very carefully.