The Biometric Citizen

Biometrics is becoming more familiar in the commercial marketplace, but it has a relatively long history of use by governments worldwide



Sujan Parthasaradhi, Director of Biometric Applications, HID Global, APAC

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Biometrics is becoming more familiar in the commercial marketplace, but it has a relatively long history of use by governments worldwide -- not only to lower security risks and mitigate fraud, but also to improve the delivery of goods and services to citizens. The focus on strong personal identification is the best means of achieving these objectives. Whether the application is border control or benefit disbursement, knowing the identity of whomever is gaining access to a country, service or privilege is at the heart of any viable government authentication solution, and biometrics is the key.

Biometric National IDs

Governments have a vested interest in knowing who is being issued an identity credential, such as a driver's license or passport, and are increasingly turning to biometrics for the answer. A biometrics identity management system (BIMS), launched by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has helped to identify and update the records of nearly 110,000 registered and unregistered refugees in Thailand's nine border camps within five months. As a result, there is now a comprehensive statistical overview of the Myanmar refugee population in Thailand.

The sheer scale of public sector programs presents unique challenges for a chosen authentication solution. For example, the national ID program in India (UID) seeks to assign unique biometric credentials to over one billion people. Citizen identity authentication solutions must be especially accurate and secure because they are used by large and diverse populations. Additionally, the credentials must be unique, difficult to copy, and yet easy to use to facilitate convenient transactions while protecting citizens from identity fraud.The scale of government projects magnifies even a small error rate into significant numbers which makes the reliability of the biometric technology a critical factor, especially in unattended environments. As one of the largest urban refugee hosts in Asia, Malaysia has been constantly fighting against identity fraud and use of counterfeit documentation. To combat these problems, UNHCR has issued new biometric ID cards with enhanced security features for refugees in Malaysia, including retina, fingerprints and faces scans. The new card allows law enforcement authorities to verify its authentication easily by scanning the SQR code on a mobile app.

Multispectral imaging technology was specifically developed to overcome fingerprint capture problems that have plagued conventional fingerprint sensors, such as replicated fake identity cards. Based on the use of multiple spectrums of light and advanced polarization techniques, the HID Global Lumidigm technology reads unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin. The collection of subsurface data is important because the fingerprint ridges seen on the surface of the finger have their foundation beneath the surface of the skin, in the capillary beds and other sub-dermal structures. Unlike surface fingerprint characteristics, which can be obscured during imaging by moisture, dirt or wear, the "inner fingerprint" lies undisturbed and unaltered beneath the surface.

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