Gaytko standing with his family at graduation
Michael Gaytko ’16, ’20 MBA, ’20 J.D., ’23 LL.M. celebrates receiving his fourth University of St. Thomas degree.

St. Thomas Alumnus Helps International Company Navigate Ethics and Technology

If you are the kind of person who hears about facial recognition and imagines a dystopian, “Black Mirror”-style future, then hearing Michael Gaytko ’16, ’20 MBA, ’20 J.D., ’23 LL.M. talk about the influence of his St. Thomas education may have you feeling optimistic.

Gaytko is part of the legal team at IDEMIA, the global leader in identity-related and biometric security services. If you have been through airport security, use a secure banking card or carry a driver’s license, it is likely you used a service provided by IDEMIA. Gaytko helps IDEMIA navigate the legal and ethical parameters of doing business through his role as legal counsel.

He helps teams within IDEMIA understand national and local laws, along with the policies of a company that intends to purchase IDEMIA’s products and services.

“That’s only one step of it,” Gaytko said. “Preventing bribery, crime, fraud and embezzlement; you can prevent those with a code of conduct and with a policy, but you really cut them off at the roots with good, ethical business practices.”

Gaytko in a commencement gown surrounded by peers.
Michael Gaytko ’16, ’20 MBA, ’20 J.D., ’23 LL.M. celebrates earning his Master of Laws degree in May 2023.

Biometric security uses facial recognition, retinas, fingerprints or other biological markers to positively identify a person. Possessing that kind of information presents new and different potentials for abuse.

As an example, a story in the news now involves the owner of Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks play basketball. (Madison Square Garden is not an IDEMIA client.) Lawyers involved in lawsuits against Madison Square Garden were denied entry into Knicks games after being flagged by the arena’s facial recognition software. At least one of the lawyers says he never consented to giving Madison Square Garden his biometric data.

“Within an organization that handles this type of product, ethics are at the forefront of everything we do,” Gaytko said. “IDEMIA has a governance board that examines all of the applications where we’ll use biometrics, ensuring we uphold human rights, and we have agreements and policies in place to not do business with certain companies or countries below a certain level of the human rights index or on international embargo lists.”

He credits St. Thomas with providing a comprehensive approach to moral and ethical decision-making. “For example, in negotiations during my MBA, it’s not just how do you win a negotiation, but how do you do so in a way that is good and achieves success for all stakeholders? Achieving success in moral and ethical ways was something that really resonated with me.”

For example, in negotiations during my MBA, it’s not just how do you win a negotiation, but how do you do so in way that is good and achieves success for all stakeholders? Achieving success in moral and ethical ways was something that really resonated with me.

Michael Gaytko ’16, ’20 MBA, ’20 J.D., ’23 LL.M.

Gaytko knows as much about St. Thomas as anyone, having spent the past 11 years earning four separate St. Thomas degrees: a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Business Administration, a law degree and, finally this spring, a Master of Laws degree. On top of that he was a Tommie Ambassador throughout the course of his education, mentoring undergraduate and prospective students and helping them feel at home on campus, and during his undergraduate senior year was elected student body president.

Undergraduate Student Government President Michael Gaytko addresses incoming freshmen in front of the Arches Sept. 8, 2015, prior to the start of the March Through the Arches. (Mike Ekern/University of St. Thomas)

He said the combination of business and law degrees gives him more influence, especially when working with colleagues like salespeople. They know Gaytko understands their side of the business, in addition to the legal dos and dont’s. 

The School of Law’s focus on giving students real-world experience was where Gaytko, as a Juris Doctor student, first saw compliance as a potential area of focus through an externship with a local company. The compliance department was handling a situation where an employee might have been doing business with a company with whom the employee had a direct relationship. It was the job of Gaytko and his mentor to find out more.

“It was investigative,” Gaytko said “We were looking at their public social media feeds. We were checking their emails for anything that showed a personal relationship. It was the exciting side of compliance.”

After earning his Juris Doctor and MBA degrees, Gaytko wasn’t ready to say goodbye to St. Thomas. This was due in part to graduating during 2020 with COVID lockdowns and full-time, online learning.

“I loved all the coursework, and looking at the Master of Laws degree, I could achieve it online and even have some of the same professors; that really excited me to pursue it,” he said.

As he looks back on his marathon education through St. Thomas, Gaytko said, “There have been so many people along the way who have helped me understand how to succeed, whether it’s professors, administrative staff working in the offices — just lots of fantastic experiences from people who genuinely cared about my success as a student and as a person.”