BiometricsCongress weighs in on Digimarc sale

Published 3 July 2008

Legislators uncomfortable with French company Safran acquiring U.S. ID maker Digimarc; they want CFIUS to take a very close look at the sale and its consequences for U.S. citizens’ security and privacy

As the biometrics world turns: Digimarc has agreed to sell the bulk of its business to a L-1 Identity Solutions, rival bidder Safran SA, a French company which is 30 percent-owned by the French government, could still return with a better offer. Yesterday, members of Congress sent a letter to the Treasury Department warning of potentially dire security and privacy results for U.S. citizens if Safran gets a hold of Digimarc’s ID card business:

As a major link in the nation’s critical infrastructure for identity management and military support, it is our understanding Digimarc plays an important role in our national security,” the Congressfolks wrote. “Digimarc provides services that enable the production of more than 60 million personal identification documents, including two-thirds of all U.S. driver’s licenses. We are concerned foreign acquisition of Digimarc will leave the ownership and control of this critical U.S. infrastructure company in the hands of a foreign sovereign investor.

The eleven signatories want any Safran deal to be scrutinized by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In addition to genuine concerns about security and privacy, the competition for Digimarc’s assets is not surprising in light of the lucrative business of printing government’s IDs.