(Bredemarket Premium) Bredemarket tips for aspiring biometric freelancers (the 8/23/2021 11:45am edition)

So I just wrote a post that contained general tips for freelancers. But before launching into the meat of the post, I said the following:

I almost considered putting the Bredemarket Premium tag on this and making you pay to read it, but I’m not THAT much of a freelancing expert. (Yet.)

After I completed that post and shared it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, I returned to my Bredemarket Premium idea. While my tips in the other post can help general freelancers, there are some things that I can share that are specific to BIOMETRIC freelancers.

This is NOT an example of biometric enrollment, but the entry device is secure from network attacks. By Rita Banerji – flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18222218

So, here goes.

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Bredemarket tips for aspiring freelancers (the 8/23/2021 10:15am edition)

I have marketed myself as the biometric content marketing expert and the biometric proposal writing expert.

Now I’m marketing myself as the freelancing expert.

“But John,” you may ask, “how can you do this? Yes, you are making money freelancing, but there are freelancers who are making a LOT more money than you are, who are working from exotic locales and are well known.”

Well, at least the locale is exotic, even if the hardware is very 20th century and the scribe only has anonymous Wikipedia/Flickr fame. By Rita Banerji – flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18222218

Before I succumb to imposter syndrome, let me assert that I DO have some tips to offer based on my experience. Frankly, all of us do. Even if you’ve only been freelancing for a week, you’ve probably learned something that someone who has never freelanced would NOT know. So share it.

Before you read my tips, note an important point. I’ll caveat my tips by stating that MY experience may not necessarily apply to YOUR experience, and that sometimes it’s good to ignore the experts (or so-called experts). You need to do what is best for you.

How do I know that I have tips to offer?

Because someone whom I met via the Freelancers Union (see the link on the word “ignore” above) just asked me for advice, and by the time I was done answering her questions, I had written a LONG email.

So I figured that I’d share parts of the email (the portions that were NOT specific to her) with you.

I almost considered putting the Bredemarket Premium tag on this and making you pay to read it, but I’m not THAT much of a freelancing expert. (Yet.)

We’ll get to the whole topic of personal pictures later. This picture was taken in 1980 or 1981, but doesn’t necessarily reflect my business or show my expertise. (And yes, I’m terrible at darts.)

As I said, these are edited versions of my responses to the Freelancers Union contact, with some additions as I thought of other things. (I forgot to mention to my Freelancers Union contact that repurposing is important, and iteration is important.)

So, here goes.

If I offer multiple, potentially very different services, is it too overwhelming to list all of my services on a single page?

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that the “single page” is a LinkedIn company page or a Facebook business page. (In many cases, it’s best to separate your freelancing page from your personal page. Again, some disagree with me.)

If you think that all of your multi-services are too much to list on one page, then you have the option of creating “showcase” pages to highlight specific aspects of what you do. For example, if you wanted to differentiate two different sets of services, you could create two separate showcase pages.

Using myself as an example, I have segmented my customers into markets: the identity (biometrics / secure documents) specific market (my primary market), the general technology market, and the general business market. I don’t even target the general business market on LinkedIn (I do on Facebook), but I’ve created showcase pages for the other two.

The Bredemarket Identity Firm Services page on LinkedIn. Of course, your view of this page will vary; I doubt that 116 of the showcase page’s followers are in YOUR network.

I have a similar structure on Facebook.

In addition, my website also has targeted pages. I won’t show examples here (EDIT: I didn’t share links in my original email to the contact, but I did share links in this new post), but I have a page that’s just targeted for general identity, multiple pages targeted for the biometric aspect of identity, one targeted for the content marketing aspect of biometrics, one for the proposal writing aspect of biometrics, etc. Therefore, if I’m talking to someone about biometric proposals, I can just send the link to the biometric proposal writing expert page.

I actually market on Twitter (@jebredcal), but I don’t go into that level of segmentation there. In fact, my Twitter account isn’t even solely devoted to my consulting. In that case, I don’t feel it worthwhile to create segmented Twitter accounts for my various submarkets, but it may be different for others. 

However you slice and dice your market, dedicated pages for specific market segments allow for a more targeted experience. And the good thing is that it’s all free. (I actually pay for my website, but it could be free if I were fine with a mycompany.wordpress.com URL.)

How do I compensate for my liabilities?

TL;DR talk about your strengths.

In my case, I compensate for what I don’t do by emphasizing what I do.

I did not draw this myself. Originally created by Jleedev using Inkscape and GIMP. Redrawn as SVG by Ben Liblit using Inkscape. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1692938

For example, I do NOT create graphics (stick figures exhaust my capabilities), so my marketing materials emphasize my creation of text.

In addition, as I stated earlier, I emphasize the markets that I DO address – I talk a lot about biometrics/secure documents/identity, some about technology, and a little bit about general business.

And I don’t talk about graphics at all. (Whoops, I guess I just did.)

I’d like to use a photo of myself to personalize my service. What photo should I use?

If I were you, I’d take a minute to think about the picture you want to use. How will this picture show that you are the best provider for your specific service in the entire universe? What should be in the background?

  • For example, if you’re a master coder, should you have a computer screen behind you with something specific on the screen?
  • If you’re a writer, should you have a bookcase or perhaps an entire library behind you?
  • If you’re a certified forensic expert, should you show a murder scene behind you? (Maybe not.)

Look at it from the point of view of a potential customer – would I want to do business with this person? 

Of course, different marketing efforts call for different pictures. I actually had a reason to use the 1980-1981 t-shirt picture that I posted toward the beginning of this post: I was talking about the fact that I have been writing since my college days. And at other times, I use a Users Conference picture in which I am talking about a smartphone app that I populated. It just depends on the context.

What question from the Freelancers Union contact received a response that I am not posting here?

She asked one additional question about other reasonable ways to get her service out there. With one exception, I chose not to post my full response to that question here for two reasons:

  • First, my response contained some very specific details about the nature of my business that I have chosen not to share with the general public. If you really want to hear that part of the discussion, I’ll create a Bredemarket Premium post and make you pay to read the response.
  • Second, my response was a very good example of “your mileage may vary.” For example, I noted that I have not had success with a particular freelancing service, but noted that many other people HAVE had success with that same service.

So what’s the exception? In response to a specific comment that my contact made, I offered this response:

You never know when your existing network will yield opportunities.

I’m not going to print the rest of the paragraph from my email to my contact, but suffice it to say that the majority of Bredemarket’s business has been won as a result of people who knew me at IDEMIA, MorphoTrak, Motorola, or even Printrak.

  • Some worked with me and became “free agents” at the same time that I did.
  • Some worked with me but left long before I did.
  • Some used to work for competitors.
  • Some are now working for large companies, others small companies, and others are sole proprietors.
  • In some cases my contact directly asked me to consult, while in other cases the my contact talked to other people (sometimes in other companies) who asked me to consult.

In the end, you never know when those contacts you made months or years or decades ago may result in something new…not just in business, but in life.

P.S. One more thing: content calendars.

And now I’m waiting for tangible collateral

I guess this is the fourth post in a series. See posts one, two, and three.

I’ll quickly sum up all of those prior posts to say that I ordered some business cards.

Anyway, I have finally ordered some business cards, which should arrive before my in-person event next week.

I was able to follow the progress of my order via a handy dandy link to the shipper’s website. I won’t name the shipper, but it does a lot of federal business and offers a variety of services, including express services.

Initially the service said that my cards wouldn’t arrive until this week, but then the anticipated delivery date was revised to Tuesday, August 10.

So I watched as my package moved from Henderson, Nevada to Bloomington, California, less than 20 miles from Bredemarket’s world headquarters.

The package stayed in Bloomington for a few days before moving again.

To Deming, New Mexico.

My last report indicated that the package had arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, and would be delivered by Thursday, August 19.

The day AFTER my meeting.

I guess I should have ordered business cards a year ago. Oh well, better late than never.

But I have a workaround. I’ve created a handout that includes an image of my business card.

It won’t fit in a business card holder, but it’s better than nothing.

Incidentally, I haven’t bothered to upload the PDF of this particular data sheet to the Bredemarket website, since it’s really intended for in-person distribution. If you want to find out about the Bredemarket 400 and Bredemarket 2800 services, you can skip the QR codes and just use these links:

And there’s one service that I DON’T mention on this particular sheet (except for my reference to “other services”) because it’s not of primary interest to the market I’m addressing in my meeting this week. However, if your needs don’t fit into a standard package, Bredemarket can offer services at an hourly rate. This service (Bredemarket 4000 Long Writing Service) doesn’t have a PDF handout, but does have a web page.

Which I just updated with the details from my revision to my content creation process.

Again, better late than never.

What do you believe?

As my regular readers know, I’ve recently spent some time refining my content creation process for Bredemarket’s clients. As part of this, I’ve made a point of emphasizing some key points that need to be established at the beginning of a client engagement with someone like you, including the following:

  • Your overall GOAL. The content Bredemarket creates must advance your goal.
  • Your perceived BENEFITS. The content Bredemarket creates must communicate your benefits.
  • Your TARGET AUDIENCE. The content Bredemarket creates must speak to your target audience.

To use a simple example, if your goal is to have local law enforcement agencies request formal quotes from you, your benefits include your experience working as a certified latent fingerprint examiner, and your target audience is the forensic, records, and/or IT departments of local law enforcement agencies, then I have failed if Bredemarket’s generated content talks about general business topics with no reference to law enforcement or fingerprints.

Beyond goals, benefits, or target audiences

However, I realize that there’s an implicit assumption that there is something that is at an even higher level than goals, benefits, or target audiences.

That “something” is your beliefs. (I speak in a business sense here, by the way, although your beliefs in general can impact how you do business.)

Because your beliefs underpin everything that you do.

We are influenced by many factors that ripple through our minds as our beliefs form, evolve, and may eventually change. By User:Lbeaumont based on image by Mila / Brocken Inaglory – This file has been extracted from another file: Multy droplets impact.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29111316

They are the (sometimes unspoken) foundation that effects the goals you set, the benefits you offer, the audiences you target, and even whether you will meet with a client at 6:00 in the morning local time. (There are pros and cons to taking 6am meetings; it’s not a one-size-fits-all decision. More about that later.)

Beliefs of sole proprietors

The influence of beliefs on a business is obviously clearest when I as a consultant deal with other sole proprietors, because sole proprietors by definition have great control over how they do business.

Because of my background, many of the sole proprietors that I know are people who were formerly in the corporate world, but left it for some reason (sometimes by choice, sometimes not). Universally, these sole proprietors have seen things in the corporate world that they like, but have also seen corporate practices that they DO NOT like. Now that they’re in business for themselves, these sole proprietors have resolved that their business will never do these bad things.

I don’t want to single out any of the sole proprietors that I know, so I’m going to make up an example.

Beth Smith spent two years working for Pay By Touch, an early pioneer in digital identity that was in some respects ahead of its time. Even when founded in the early 2000s, the concept was solid: rather than having to drag out a credit card to make a payment, a grocery store shopper or other consumer could simply touch his or her finger against a fingerprint reader, securely allowing the consumer to pay by touch. Unfortunately, the leadership of the firm was not so good, and the company itself eventually went bankrupt.

From 4 COMMON STARTUP MISTAKES THAT HAVE RUINED THEIR BUSINESS, https://slidebean.com/blog/startups-common-mistakes-that-have-ruined-startups

Several years later, when digital identity became a hot topic, Beth Smith decided to re-enter the industry on her own. But she decided that a key belief of her business would be ethical behavior. No cocaine binges or unpaid bills would sully the reputation of Beth Smith Identity Services.

From this key belief, you can extrapolate how it would be reflected in Beth Smith’s goals, benefits, and target audience. For example, if you’re an illegal drug dealer, don’t even bother to ask Beth Smith Identity Services for a quote. She won’t talk to you.

Perhaps my made-up example is outrageous (then again, Pay By Touch’s founder John P. Rogers was pretty outrageous himself), but I’ve seen how similar beliefs (shaped by experience) have influenced other sole proprietors that I know.

  • If a sole proprietor is angered by the glacial nature of multinational decision-making, that proprietor will emphasize quick delivery to accelerate client business and satisfaction.
  • If a sole proprietor is disheartened because their former employer ignored a specific product, service, or market, that proprietor will prioritize that product/service/market and bring their unique talents to that market.
  • If a sole proprietor is frustrated by the prevalence of one-size-fits-all cookie cutter solutions, that proprietor will prioritize responsiveness to a customer’s unique needs to ensure that the customer receives the best possible service.

But how do you discover a sole proprietor’s beliefs?

If I were interviewing you, I probably wouldn’t ask you what your key beliefs are. Perhaps I should (although that’s a rather personal question), but so far I haven’t needed to do so. If I already know you from past associations, I already know what your beliefs are. And if I don’t know you but just generally ask you about yourself and your business, your beliefs will probably come through in your conversation with me. If you spend a half hour talking with someone, you can learn all sorts of things. (But if you’re talking with me, my Calendly calendar doesn’t include 6am appointments.)

Beliefs of corporate employees

In terms of beliefs, a corporation is very different from a sole proprietor.

I know this from personal experience. The first multinational corporation that employed me was Motorola. This was before Motorola split into two entities, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility.

During my period as a Motorola employee, the company had three leaders: Christopher Galvin, Edward Zander, and Greg Brown. While these leaders could set the direction for the company, they could not completely influence the beliefs of every member. It isn’t like all of the tens of thousands of Motorola employees immediately changed direction when Zander replaced Galvin, even though the two had distinctly different styles.

Galvin is a quiet, reserved, man who is perhaps contemplative and reflective to a fault. He believed in layers of management and many meetings that often kept Motorola from responding quickly to dynamic market circumstances. While not prone to take credit for successes, he always said the buck stopped with him when things didn’t go well. Zander, a freewheeling showman, is a boisterous, energetic, fast-moving Brooklyn native who often shoots from the hip or the lip.

I have never spoken with Galvin, Zander, or Brown, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in the same room with Galvin or Zander. Greg Brown advanced in Motorola’s hierarchy before becoming CEO, so I’m sure that I was in the same room with him at some point in my Motorola career.

So Galvin’s, Zander’s, and Brown’s influence on me and my beliefs was somewhat limited.

I was much more influenced by my direct supervisors, other directors and managers at Motorola’s Anaheim and Irvine offices, and selected people from Schaumburg, Plantation, Phoenix, Canada, and elsewhere who interacted with me on a daily basis.

The same holds true with my consulting business.

While I am technically delivering Bredemarket’s services to companies (including some large multinational companies), in reality I am delivering my services to Director Jim at Company X or Vice President Carol at Company Y. Director Jim and VP Carol have their own goals, perceived benefits, and target audiences…and their own beliefs.

When Bredemarket is delivering something to Director Jim, and is considering various options, there are times when I say to myself “Director Jim wouldn’t go for that.” Or if I’m delivering something to VP Carol, it will occur to me that she would really prefer a particular way of doing things.

Again, a consultant may not explicitly ask a corporate employee about their beliefs, but if the consultant regularly talks to the client, those beliefs will come out in the course of conversation.

What are MY beliefs?

This is the “physician heal thyself” portion of the post.

As you may have gathered from this post, I don’t always expect a sole proprietor or corporate employee to explicitly delineate their beliefs, perhaps because I can’t envision myself doing something like that. If I were talking to you as a potential client, it would feel brazen for me to declare, “This is what I believe.” Beliefs are personal, after all.

But even if I don’t explicitly state my beliefs, I need to make sure that they are reflected in Bredemarket’s goals, benefits, and target audiences.

How is my self-proclaimed status as a biometric content marketing expert and a biometric proposal writing expert influenced by my underlying beliefs?

What are YOUR beliefs?

For this post, I’ll dispense with my usual call to action to contact me if Bredemarket can help you. (Actually, I didn’t dispense with it, since I just wrote it.)

But I WILL ask you to think about something, whether you are a sole proprietor, a corporate employee, or a guy who used to be everyone’s best friend and is now having fun.

Think about your beliefs.

  1. What are they?
  2. How do they influence how you conduct business?
  3. Finally, would you explicitly state your beliefs, or would you prefer that your beliefs be reflected by what you do?

More on the Israeli master faces study

Eric Weiss of FindBiometrics has opined on the Tel Aviv master faces study that I previously discussed.

Oops, wrong “Faces.” Oh well. By Warner Bros. Records – Billboard, page 18, 14 November 1970, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27031391

While he does not explicitly talk about the myriad of facial recognition algorithms that were NOT addressed in the study, he does have some additional details about the test dataset.

The three algorithms that were tested

Here’s what FindBiometrics says about the three algorithms that were tested in the Israeli study.

The researchers described (the master faces) as master keys that could unlock the three facial recognition systems that were used to test the theory. In that regard, they challenged the Dlib, FaceNet, and SphereFace systems, and their nine master faces were able to impersonate more than 40 percent of the 5,749 people in the LFW set.

While it initially sounds impressive to say that three facial recognition algorithms were fooled by the master faces, bear in mind that there are hundreds of facial recognition algorithms tested by NIST alone, and (as I said earlier) the test has NOT been duplicated against any algorithms other than the three open source algorithms mentioned.

…let’s look at the algorithms themselves and evaluate the claim that results for the three algorithms Dlib, FaceNet, and SphereFace can naturally be extrapolated to ALL facial recognition algorithms….NIST’s subsequent study…evaluated 189 algorithms specially for 1:1 and 1:N use cases….“Tests showed a wide range in accuracy across developers, with the most accurate algorithms producing many fewer errors.”

In short, just because the three open source algorithms were fooled by master faces doesn’t mean that commercial grade algorithms would also be fooled by master faces. Maybe they would be fooled…or maybe they wouldn’t.

What about the dataset?

The three open source algorithms were tested against the dataset from Labeled Faces in the Wild. As I noted in my prior post, the LFW people emphasize some important caveats about their dataset, including the following:

Many groups are not well represented in LFW. For example, there are very few children, no babies, very few people over the age of 80, and a relatively small proportion of women. In addition, many ethnicities have very minor representation or none at all.

In the FindBiometrics article, Weiss provides some additional detail about dataset representation.

…there is good reason to question the researchers’ conclusion. Only two of the nine master faces belong to women, and most depicted white men over the age of 60. In plain terms, that means that the master faces are not representative of the global public, and they are not nearly as effective when applied to anyone that falls outside one particular demographic.

That discrepancy can largely be attributed to the limitations of the LFW dataset. Women make up only 22 percent of the dataset, and the numbers are even lower for children, the elderly (those over the age of 80), and for many ethnic groups.

Valid points to be sure, although the definition of a “representative” dataset varies depending upon the use case. For example, a representative dataset for a law enforcement database in the city of El Paso, Texas will differ from a representative dataset for an airport database catering to Air France customers.

So what conclusion can be drawn?

Perhaps it’s just me, but scientific entities that conduct studies are always motivated by the need for additional funding. After a study is concluded, it seems that the entities always conclude that “more research is needed”…which can be self-serving, because as long as more research is needed, the scientific entities can continue to receive necessary funding. Imagine the scientific entity that would dare to say “Well, all necessary research has been conducted. We’re closing down our research center.”

But in this case, there IS a need to perform additional research, to test the master faces against different algorithms and against different datasets. Then we’ll know whether this statement from the FindBiometrics article (emphasis mine) is actually true:

Any face-based identification system would be extremely vulnerable to spoofing…

When people confuse the two companies Integrated Biometric Technology and Integrated Biometrics

This is the “oops” of the month (actually for the month of July).

By U.S. Government – ATSDR (part of the CDC) series of state-specific fact sheets. Bitmap versions have been seen on US Embassy websites. Direct PDF URL [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14801198

On Monday, July 26 the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development made an important announcement:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Integrated Biometric Technology, LLC (IBT) officials announced today that the company will establish new operations and locate its corporate headquarters in Franklin.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Nashville area, Franklin is a suburb of Nashville. Coincidentally, IDEMIA (IBT President & CEO Charles Carroll’s former employer) used to have an office in Franklin (I visited it in June 2019), but it has since moved to another Nashville suburb.

This job-related news obviously pleased a number of other Tennessee government officials, including one whom (in this post at least) will remain nameless. The government official tweeted the following, along with a link to the announcement:

Congratulations to @IntegratedBiome on their decision to locate their facility in Franklin and to all our state and local officials who helped bring these jobs home!

A nice sentiment to be sure…except for one teeny problem.

The government official didn’t tag Integrated Biometric Technology (who appears to have a Twitter account, but it isn’t live yet), but instead tagged a SOUTH CAROLINA company with a similar name, Integrated Biometrics. (I’ve discussed this company before. They’re the ones who really like 1970s TV crime fighters.)

Book ’em, Danno! By CBS Television – eBay item photo front photo back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19674714

Integrated Biometrics’ social media person set the record straight.

Hi there! That article is actually about Integrated Biometric Technology – not us (Integrated Biometrics)

It turns out that the two companies with similar names have existed in one form or another for nearly two decades. The first iteration of Integrated Biometric Technology was established in 2005, while Integrated Biometrics dates back to 2002. I was in Motorola at the time and can’t remember any name confusion in those days, since I was busy concentrating on other things…such as AFIX Tracker.

Cue the “It’s a Small World” music. Trust me, the biometrics world can be very small at times…

And now I’m creating tangible collateral

(This is the third post in a series. The first post (from July 8) can be found here, the second (from July 12) here.)

Most people who started new businesses did not start them during a pandemic. Those of us who did had a different experience than older firms. Some things those older firms did weren’t necessary for the COVID firms.

Until now.

Starting a business during a pandemic

When I started Bredemarket, I wasn’t creating tangible collateral.

When would I use it?

I wasn’t driving to clients’ offices to pitch my services. I was sitting in my home office, communicating with people online, and never visiting them. I had not met any of my clients in-person in years, and some of my clients have never met me in-person at all.

I wasn’t mailing things to clients or potential clients…well, not through the U.S. Postal Service anyway. I’m using email, LinkedIn, and other electronic communication methods to interact with my clients. Bredemarket’s inventory doesn’t even include a single stamp.

By Basotxerri – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47877366

And in my case I wasn’t traveling on any real business trips. (I didn’t go to last week’s International Association for Identification conference.) For me, my only “business trips” so far have been to:

My prediction of the death of tangible collateral was premature

You may remember that after going to Tech on Tap, I had to change my mind about tangible collateral. It obviously still existed.

I previously thought that tangible collateral had gone the way of the dodo.

By BazzaDaRambler – Oxford University Museum of Natural History … dodo – dead apparently. Uploaded by FunkMonk, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20054563

You can’t blame me for thinking that tangible collateral was on the way out, because I was conducting most of my business without physically entering a location. My city business license, my fictitious business name application, and even my business bank account were all applied for online.

Tangible collateral was of far less importance than my QR code.

And now I’m printing tangible collateral

So what changed?

Well, I’m going to an in-person event next week. For my younger readers (i.e. those who developed awareness after 2019), an “in-person event” is something where you are actually in the same room as the people that you are meeting, rather than looking at them in boxes on your computer screen.

Who knew that this was the future of communication? By screenshot, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34177604

After I registered for the in-person event, I realized that I needed to obtain something, preferably before the meeting.

I needed business cards.

And the business cards had to be Bredemarket business cards. I still have some business cards from my former employer, but they’re obviously not going to do me any good.

Now travel back to those long-ago days of 2019 and try to imagine any firm, even a service-based firm, conducting business for almost a year without bothering to print business cards.

Since I haven’t really dealt with business cards in a couple of years, it’s time for me to brush up on business card etiquette:

Cards should not be handed out by the left hand, should never be written on and should always be translated to the language of the specific country they are being handed out in on the rear of the card. They should never be carried loose and presented in the best condition.

(By the way, don’t you think that last sentence needs a comma?)

Anyway, I have finally ordered some business cards, which should arrive before my in-person event next week.

And I’ll also be ready for a SECOND in-person event.

Unless a future Mu or Nu variant of COVID sends us all back home.

Faulty “journalism” conclusions: the Israeli “master faces” study DIDN’T test ANY commercial biometric algorithms

Modern “journalism” often consists of reprinting a press release without subjecting it to critical analysis. Sadly, I see a lot of this in publications, including both biometric and technology publications.

This post looks at the recently announced master faces study results, the datasets used (and the datasets not used), the algorithms used (and the algorithms not used), and the (faulty) conclusions that have been derived from the study.

Oh, and it also informs you of a way to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes when talking about biometrics.

Vulnerabilities from master faces

In facial recognition, there is a concept called “master faces” (similar concepts can be found for other biometric modalities). The idea behind master faces is that such data can potentially match against MULTIPLE faces, not just one. This is similar to a master key that can unlock many doors, not just one.

This can conceivably happen because facial recognition algorithms do not match faces to faces, but match derived features from faces to derived features from faces. So if you can create the right “master” feature set, it can potentially match more than one face.

However, this is not just a concept. It’s been done, as Biometric Update informs us in an article entitled ‘Master faces’ make authentication ‘extremely vulnerable’ — researchers.

Ever thought you were being gaslighted by industry claims that facial recognition is trustworthy for authentication and identification? You have been.

The article goes on to discuss an Israeli research project that demonstrated some true “master faces” vulnerabilities. (Emphasis mine.)

One particular approach, which they write was based on Dlib, created nine master faces that unlocked 42 percent to 64 percent of a test dataset. The team also evaluated its work using the FaceNet and SphereFace, which like Dlib, are convolutional neural network-based face descriptors.

They say a single face passed for 20 percent of identities in Labeled Faces in the Wild, an open-source database developed by the University of Massachusetts. That might make many current facial recognition products and strategies obsolete.

Sounds frightening. After all, the study not only used dlib, FaceNet, and SphereFace, but also made reference to a test set from Labeled Faces in the Wild. So it’s obvious why master faces techniques might make many current facial recognition products obsolete.


Let’s look at the datasets

It’s always more impressive to cite an authority, and citations of the University of Massachusetts’ Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) are no exception. After all, this dataset has been used for some time to evaluate facial recognition algorithms.

But what does Labeled Faces in the Wild say about…itself? (I know this is a long excerpt, but it’s important.)


Labeled Faces in the Wild is a public benchmark for face verification, also known as pair matching. No matter what the performance of an algorithm on LFW, it should not be used to conclude that an algorithm is suitable for any commercial purpose. There are many reasons for this. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

Face verification and other forms of face recognition are very different problems. For example, it is very difficult to extrapolate from performance on verification to performance on 1:N recognition.

Many groups are not well represented in LFW. For example, there are very few children, no babies, very few people over the age of 80, and a relatively small proportion of women. In addition, many ethnicities have very minor representation or none at all.

While theoretically LFW could be used to assess performance for certain subgroups, the database was not designed to have enough data for strong statistical conclusions about subgroups. Simply put, LFW is not large enough to provide evidence that a particular piece of software has been thoroughly tested.

Additional conditions, such as poor lighting, extreme pose, strong occlusions, low resolution, and other important factors do not constitute a major part of LFW. These are important areas of evaluation, especially for algorithms designed to recognize images “in the wild”.

For all of these reasons, we would like to emphasize that LFW was published to help the research community make advances in face verification, not to provide a thorough vetting of commercial algorithms before deployment.

While there are many resources available for assessing face recognition algorithms, such as the Face Recognition Vendor Tests run by the USA National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the understanding of how to best test face recognition algorithms for commercial use is a rapidly evolving area. Some of us are actively involved in developing these new standards, and will continue to make them publicly available when they are ready.

So there are a lot of disclaimers in that text.

  • LFW is a 1:1 test, not a 1:N test. Therefore, while it can test how one face compares to another face, it cannot test how one face compares to a database of faces. The usual law enforcement use case is to compare a single face (for example, one captured from a video camera) against an entire database of known criminals. That’s a computationally different exercise from the act of comparing a crime scene face against a single criminal face, then comparing it against a second criminal face, and so forth.
  • The people in the LFW database are not necessarily representative of the world population, the population of the United States, the population of Massachusetts, or any population at all. So you can’t conclude that a master face that matches against a bunch of LFW faces would match against a bunch of faces from your locality.
  • Captured faces exhibit a variety of quality levels. A face image captured by a camera three feet from you at eye level in good lighting will differ from a face image captured by an overhead camera in poor lighting. LFW doesn’t have a lot of these latter images.

I should mention one more thing about LFW. The researchers allow testers to access the database itself, essentially making LFW an “open book test.” And as any student knows, if a test is open book, it’s much easier to get an A on the test.

By MCPearson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25969927

Now let’s take a look at another test that was mentioned by the LFW folks itself: namely, NIST’s Face Recognition Vendor Test.

This is actually a series of tests that has evolved over the years; NIST is now conducting ongoing tests for both 1:1 and 1:N (unlike LFW, which only conducts 1:1 testing). This is important because most of the large-scale facial recognition commercial applications that we think about are 1:N applications (see my example above, in which a facial image captured at a crime scene is compared against an entire database of criminals).

In addition, NIST uses multiple data sets that cover a number of use cases, including mugshots, visa photos, and faces “in the wild” (i.e. not under ideal conditions).

It’s also important to note that NIST’s tests are also intended to benefit research, and do not necessarily indicate that a particular algorithm that performs well for NIST will perform well in a commercial implementation. (If the algorithm is even available in a commercial implementation: some of the algorithms submitted to NIST are research algorithms only that never made it to a production system.) For the difference between testing an algorithm in a NIST test and testing an algorithm in a production system, please see Mike French’s LinkedIn article on the topic. (I’ve cited this article before.)

With those caveats, I will note that NIST’s FRVT tests are NOT open book tests. Vendors and other entities give their algorithms to NIST, NIST tests them, and then NIST tells YOU what the results were.

So perhaps it’s more robust than LFW, but it’s still a research project.

Let’s look at the algorithms

Now that we’ve looked at two test datasets, let’s look at the algorithms themselves and evaluate the claim that results for the three algorithms Dlib, FaceNet, and SphereFace can naturally be extrapolated to ALL facial recognition algorithms.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen such an attempt at extrapolation. After all, the MIT Media Lab’s Gender Shades study (which evaluated neither 1:1 nor 1:N use cases, but algorithmic attempts to identify gender and race) itself only used three algorithms. Yet the popular media conclusion from this study was that ALL facial recognition algorithms are racist.

Compare this with NIST’s subsequent study, which evaluated 189 algorithms specially for 1:1 and 1:N use cases. While NIST did find some race/sex differences in algorithms, these were not universal: “Tests showed a wide range in accuracy across developers, with the most accurate algorithms producing many fewer errors.”

In other words, just because an earlier test of three algorithms demonstrated issues in determining race or gender, that doesn’t mean that the current crop of hundreds of algorithms will necessarily demonstrate issues in identifying individuals.

So let’s circle back to the master faces study. How do the results of this study affect “current facial recognition products”?

The answer is “We don’t know.”

Has the master faces experiment been duplicated against the leading commercial algorithms tested by Labeled Faces in the Wild? Apparently not.

Has the master faces experiment been duplicated against the leading commercial algorithms tested by NIST? Well, let’s look at the various ways you can define the “leading” commercial algorithms.

For example, here’s the view of the test set that IDEMIA would want you to see: the 1:N test sorted by the “Visa Border” column (results as of August 6, 2021):

And here’s the view of the test set that Paravision would want you to see: the 1:1 test sorted by the “Mugshot” column (results as of August 6, 2021):

From https://pages.nist.gov/frvt/html/frvt11.html as of August 6, 2021.

Now you can play with the sort order in many different ways, but the question remains: have the Israeli researchers, or anyone else, performed a “master faces” test (preferably a 1:N test) on the IDEMIA, Paravision, Sensetime, NtechLab, Anyvision, or ANY other commercial algorithm?

Maybe a future study WILL conclude that even the leading commercial algorithms are vulnerable to master face attacks. However, until such studies are actually performed, we CANNOT conclude that commercial facial recognition algorithms are vulnerable to master face attacks.

So naturally journalists approach the results critically…not

But I’m sure that people are going to make those conclusions anyway.

From https://xkcd.com/386/. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.5).

Does anyone even UNDERSTAND these studies? (Or do they choose NOT to understand them?)

How can you avoid the same mistakes when communicating about biometrics?

As you can see, people often write about biometric topics without understanding them fully.

Even biometric companies sometimes have difficulty communicating about biometric topics in a way that laypeople can understand. (Perhaps that’s the reason why people misconstrue these studies and conclude that “all facial recognition is racist” and “any facial recognition system can be spoofed by a master face.”)

Are you about to publish something about biometrics that requires a sanity check? (Hopefully not literally, but you know what I mean.)

Well, why not turn to a biometric content marketing expert?

Bredemarket offers over 25 years of experience in biometrics that can be applied to your marketing and writing projects.

If you don’t have a content marketing project now, you can still subscribe to my Bredemarket Identity Firm Services LinkedIn page or my Bredemarket Identity Firm Services Facebook group to keep up with news about biometrics (or about other authentication factors; biometrics isn’t the only one). Or scroll down to the bottom of this blog post and subscribe to my Bredemarket blog.

If my content creation process can benefit your biometric (or other technology) marketing and writing projects, contact me.

Why is Kaye Putnam happy that I’m IGNORING her marketing advice?

This is the cover art for the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by the artist Simon & Garfunkel. The cover art can be obtained from Columbia. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2184092

A few hours after finishing my revision of Bredemarket’s work process, I attended this month’s Orange County (California) Freelancers Union SPARK webinar. I’ve shared some things from SPARK meetings in the past (July’s happy hour, May’s AB2257 discussion), and I’m going to share some things from the August meeting also.

Jung and the restless

This meeting (which also happened to be the national Freelancers Union meeting for the month; our chapter rules!) was led by Cara Raffele, who spoke about “The Power of Storytelling.”

From https://www.freelancersunion.org/community/spark-events/#spark–monthly-theme, although it might have changed by the time you read this.

I’m not going to talk about the ENTIRE meeting, but will focus on the last part of the meeting, during which Raffele discussed “understanding your brand for maximum impact,” or brand archetypes.

The idea of archetypes started with Carl Jung, who defined them as images and themes that derive from the collective unconscious.

Jung claimed to identify a large number of archetypes but paid special attention to four. Jung labeled these archetypes the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus.

In modern-day marketing, this “large number of archetypes” has been boiled down to twelve, and it was these twelve that Raffele referenced in her presentation.

Twelve archetypes. From https://www.kayeputnam.com/brandality-archetypes/. More about Kaye Putnam later.

Raffele encouraged all of us freelancers to listen to all twelve, and then to select multiple archetypes (not just one) that seemed to reflect our freelance brands. So I iterated a first cut at the archetypes that I believed applied to Bredemarket; my preliminary list included Sage, Creator, and Explorer.

Why Sage? That particular one resonated with me because of my experiences with my clients (educating on benefits vs. features, expanding the understanding of law enforcement agency stakeholders), and because of the way I’ve been marketing myself anyway. After all, when I self-reference as the biometric content marketing expert and the biometric proposal writing expert, then it’s obvious that I can add the sage to my clients’ parsley, rosemary, and thyme. (Sorry, couldn’t resist, even though I know it’s bad.)

But after guessing that Bredemarket is Sage with a pinch of Creator and Explorer, I realized that I might not know myself as well as I thought, so I asked if there were some type of online “archetypes test,” similar to the online Meyers-Briggs personality tests, that could help you semi-independently discern your archetypes.

Raffele responded by pointing us to Kaye Putnam and her online Brand Personality Quiz.

(One aside before moving on to Putnam’s test. A few of you realize that I did not come up with the section title “Jung and the restless” on my own. Yes, I stole it from a Steve Taylor song title (and he stole it from a soap opera). I used the title even though Taylor is frankly not that positive about secular psychology. But he did say “some of my best friends are shrinks.” Oh, and that’s obviously Gym Nicholson of Undercover fame on guitar.)

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JNOMb_IG8I.

My “Brand Personality Quiz” results, and Kaye Putnam’s recommendations

If you’ve taken an online Meyers-Briggs personality test, or any other similar online test, the process of the Brand Personality Quiz will seem familiar to you. Putnam’s quiz asks you a series of independent questions, some of which have as many as twelve options. It then tabulates your answers against attributes of the twelve brand archetypes, and produces a final result listing a primary brand archetype and some secondary archetypes.

Here are my results.

So if you take Putnam’s quiz as gospel, I was somewhat accurate in my initial self-assessment.

  • Note that “Sage” came first and “Explorer” came second in the quiz results, and those were two of the archetypes I initially tweeted about before taking the quiz.
  • Considering the personal writing style I use in my blog, tweets, and elsewhere, “Entertainer” wasn’t much of a surprise either.
  • Upon further personal reflection, “Royalty” makes sense also. (So bow before me, serfs.)

And after reading Putnam’s description of “Creator” and its emphasis on visual presentation (rather than textual presentation), I can see why this was NOT on the list.

I did not draw this myself. Originally created by Jleedev using Inkscape and GIMP. Redrawn as SVG by Ben Liblit using Inkscape. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1692938

Along with my results, Putnam provided a link that allowed me to download a brief description of my primary archetype, Sage. Now this brief description doesn’t include all of the detail found in Putnam’s 12 Brandfluency courses (one for each archetype), but it does include many actionable items.

The “Sage Inspiration Kit” provides useful tips for Sage businesspeople to include in their brand marketing. The kit asserts that if the tips are followed, the results will produce emotional responses in potential clients that will increase brand attractiveness, thus allowing businesspeople to win more business (and win better business).

Tips are provided on the following:

  • Color.
  • Typography.
  • Words.

Obviously that’s a lot of stuff to absorb, even in this brief kit. (The paid course offers tips in additional areas.) And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t change all the colors and fonts in my marketing overnight.

But I could look at Putnam’s word suggestions.

Ignoring the expert

Now Kaye Putnam’s word suggestions are freely available to anyone, but I’m not going to just copy all of them and reproduce them here. Request them yourself. (The link is for the Sage archetype)

But I’ll offer comments on a few of the 18 words and phrases in the kit.

From https://xkcd.com/386/. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.5).

First off, I’m NOT going to use “think tank” in Bredemarket’s marketing. Perhaps this phrase may resonate for a larger firm, or even for a smaller firm with a team of people addressing their clients’ needs. But it would take a lot of stretching to describer a solopreneur think tank.

Another term that DOESN’T make sense for Bredemarket is “engineering.” Now obviously engineering is a good thing, although I’ve seen cases where engineering is overemphasized. But it doesn’t really make sense for my business, in which I make a point of emphasizing my ability to communicate engineering concepts to non-engineers. The same issues apply with the phrase “the code.”

I won’t go into all of my concerns, but there are several “Sage words” in the list that I would never use for Bredemarket, or would use very sparingly.

And that’s…OK

Remember, of course, that Stuart Smalley is not a licensed practitioner. By http://www.tvacres.com/words_stuart.htm, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31855280

When someone gives you advice, whether it’s Kaye Putnam or John Bredehoft, you have to judge whether the advice is good for YOU.

Even if you narrow a brand down to one archetype, there are innumerable differences between individuals who align with this archetype. One size does not fit all, and I personally may love the term “experiment” but hate the terms listed above.

Now perhaps I may be wrong in rejecting Putnam’s advice. Perhaps there’s a really, really good reason why I should sprinkle the phrase “think tank” through all of my marketing materials.

But in the end it’s up to the recipient to decide whether or not to follow the advice of the expert. That applies to people giving advice to me, and that also applies to the advice that I give to my clients. (If a client insists on using the phrase “best of breed,” I can’t stop the client from doing so.)

But several of those words and phrases DO seem like good ideas, and I’ll probably make a concerted effort to sprinkle the GOOD words and phrases throughout Bredemarket’s website, social media channels, proposals, and other marketing.

Even though this might require me to re-revise the content creation process that I just revised.

Oh well. It’s good to…experiment with things. After all, Bredemarket is in effect a laboratory in which I like to try solutions out myself before I try to make a case for them with my clients. It’s easier to speak to research-based proven solutions than ones with which I have no experience at all.

By Rembrandt – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=157824

Did that paragraph sound sage-like? I got six of the words/phrases into that paragraph!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a Royally Entertaining and Exploring Sage…

Bredemarket offers clients deep experience in content marketing, proposals, and strategy. I can offer expert advice to biometrics firms, since (as noted above) I am a biometric content marketing expert and a biometric proposal writing expert. However, this expert advice can also be provided to other technology firms, and to general business.

You can read here about how my content creation process ensures that the final written content (a) advances your GOAL, (b) communicates your BENEFITS, and (c) speaks to your TARGET AUDIENCE.

If Bredemarket can fill a gap in your company’s needs (NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY.), then feel free to contact me and we can discuss your needs and possible solutions.

Revising Bredemarket’s content creation process

This post is a follow-up to a prior post. In that post, I looked at the different ways in which I described Bredemarket’s content creation process, compared that to other content creation processes, and decided what I would like to include in Bredemarket’s new content creation process.

Jean Miélot, a European author and scribe at work. By Jean Le Tavernier – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74516

But I didn’t actually publish my new content creation process in that post, because I wanted to think about it. Oh, and there was another reason. (Hint: 4.5X.)

Well, I’ve slept on it, thought about it, wrote it, and rewrote it.

So let’s see the (probably not) final result. It’s longer than I’d like, but at least it’s (hopefully) thorough. And yes, I left out “accelerate,” but I included just about everything else.

Now that I’ve posted it here, I’ll roll it out to the rest of the Bredemarket website.

Bredemarket’s content creation process as of August 4, 2021

Bredemarket’s content creation process ensures that the final written content (a) advances your GOAL, (b) communicates your BENEFITS, and (c) speaks to your TARGET AUDIENCE. It is both iterative and collaborative.

Here is the general content creation process (which may vary depending upon content complexity and your preferences):

  • You and Bredemarket agree upon the topic, goal, benefits, and target audience (and, if necessary, outline, section sub-goals, relevant examples, and relevant key words/hashtags, and interim and final due dates).
  • For complex content requiring input and approval of multiple subject matter experts, you and Bredemarket agree on a preliminary list of tasks, assigned persons, and due dates.
  • For content that must be incorporated into your content management system, you and Bredemarket agree on the necessary format and other parameters. Otherwise, the final copy will be provided in Microsoft Word docx format, including (as appropriate) callout indicators, hyperlinks, key words, and/or hashtags.
  • For projects requiring multiple related pieces of content, you and Bredemarket agree upon the desired frequency of content.
  • You provide relevant technical details (and, for selected longer content, access to the end customer for a 30 minute interview).
  • Bredemarket conducts any necessary research (or interviews).
  • Bredemarket iteratively provides the specified number of review copies of the draft content within the specified number of days per review. (The number of review cycles and review time must agree with any due dates.) The draft content advances your goal, communicates your benefits, and speaks to your target audience in your preferred tone of voice. Relevant examples and key words/hashtags are included.
  • You return comments on each review copy within the specified number of days. For longer content, you may provide the draft formatted copy for the final review.
  • After all reviews and comments, Bredemarket provides the final copy.