Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Germany introduces biometric cards for foreigners

In a bid to prevent identity fraud, Germany is digitalizing its residence permits for non-EU citizens. Instead of a paper document, they'll be given a new biometric chip card - shaped like a credit card. (Deutsche Welle)

India Biometric Adoption

The entry below attempts to illuminate the spirit of India's UID project.

These two articles offer concrete examples of how biometric identity management techniques can be used to bring efficiencies to existing processes.

Biometric medical cards for Delhi Development Authority employees (Times of India)

Rural jobs scheme: Biometric attendance for workers (

India UID: It's About People

Technically, the challenge India has set for itself — a unique, legitimate ID for every individual in society — reminds me of the polio mass immunization efforts of the 1950's and the goal is no less importance.

A unique, legally recognized individual identity is a prerequisite to any sort of decent society. It is an infrastructure without which many things those in the developed world take for granted simply cannot exist: compulsory primary education, successful immunization against preventable communicable disease, social safety nets, effective democracy.

Vince Beiser at Wired has written the best piece I have seen on the humanity of India's Unique ID (UID) project. The photos by Jonathan Torgovnik are an excellent addition to the piece. The quote below gives a flavor, but anyone interested enough in the subject to have landed at this blog would be utterly remiss in not clicking through to read the entire article.

Massive Biometric Project Gives Millions of Indians an ID (Wired)
Kiran has never touched or even seen a real computer, let alone an iris scanner. She thinks she’s 32, but she’s not sure exactly when she was born. Kiran has no birth certificate, or ID of any kind for that matter—no driver’s license, no voting card, nothing at all to document her existence. Eight years ago, she left her home in a destitute farming village and wound up here in Mongolpuri, a teeming warren of shabby apartment blocks and tarp-roofed shanties where grimy barefoot children, cargo bicycles, haggard dogs, goats, and cows jostle through narrow, trash-filled streets. Kiran earns about $1.50 a day sorting cast-off clothing for recycling. In short, she’s just another of India’s vast legions of anonymous poor.

Now, for the first time, her government is taking note of her. Kiran and her children are having their personal information recorded in an official database—not just any official database, but one of the biggest the world has ever seen. They are the latest among millions of enrollees in India’s Unique Identification project, also known as Aadhaar, which means “the foundation” in several Indian languages. Its goal is to issue identification numbers linked to the fingerprints and iris scans of every single person in India.

India should be encouraged, cheered and supported in its efforts. Hundreds of millions of people stand to gain if they are successful and will continue to suffer in poverty if they fail.

Other posts about India and development.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Zealand ID Management: New Possibilities

NZ Post's hi-tech photo capture system (
New Zealand Post has taken its first step towards a future in biometrics.

It is trialling a hi-tech system that takes passport and digital photos in 14 of its Postshops, including its Manners St branch in central Wellington.

The software behind the system could also let NZ Post capture fingerprints and voice samples for identification purposes.

There's also an associated "secure transactions" scheme in the works.

Crowds and Face Rec at 2,110 Mega-Pixels

What's in a face? (North County Times, California)
Perhaps you've received the email photo of the Vancouver Canucks Fan Zone along Georgia Street for Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup just before the riot last June. The 2,110 megapixel photo was taken over a 15-minute time span and is actually 216 photos stitched together.

To the naked eye, it's just a blob of shadow and light of tens of thousands of fans between several blocks of tall buildings. But keep zooming in and you can zero in on individual faces with unbelievable clarity.
More at the link.

Biometrics and Distance Learning

Distance learning is set to revolutionize higher education. Biometric identity verification will certainly help overcome the On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog objection.

University of South Alabama College of Nursing Adopts Fingerprint Verification (TMCNet)
"We are thrilled to support the administrators, faculty and students at the University of South Alabama College of Nursing," said Douglas Winneg, CEO and Founder of Software Secure. "In these times of great growth in distance education, it's gratifying to work with a school that focuses on both the quality of their online offering as well as the convenience for their students." "Ensuring exam integrity without over-burdening our students was a critical goal of the College of Nursing," said Davis."We looked at a variety of other methods and technologies, and found Software Secure offered the most comprehensive solution that also is cost effective

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First-Grader Likes Biometrics, Sites Increased Efficiency

Here's a good article on yet another school cafeteria biometric deployment.

St. Joseph takes lunchtime high tech (Link No Longer Active Shreveport Times - Louisiana)
First-grader Audrey St. Amant said getting through the lunch line was easier than in previous years because of the scanners.

"I like it because I don't have to remember my number, and it made it faster than last year."

A first-grader notes the increased efficiency biometrics have brought to a business process.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Biometric Applications in Afghanistan

Biometrics in Afghanistan (YouTube via @M2SYS)

What is worse: ID theft, or not having an ID to begin with?

Cyber expert fears misuse of Aadhar or UID numbers (Silicon India)
"The immediate threat may not be realised now. But in a span of next five years, when the cards will be rolled out completely, we may also witness cases of cyber mischief such as hacking," Bhaskar said.

He further warned that cybermischief may also evolve into cybercrime that poses serious threat to country's national security.

While the UID guarantees uniqueness and a universal identity through a centralised online identity verification process, experts point out that biometric information such as iris scan and fingerprinting lead to a misuse of an individual's personal information.

Experts have also raised concerns on the number getting misused by anti-socials such as terrorists, since they can get it issued through fake identities during large-scale enrolments.
That someone would steal another person's identity is a pretty clear demonstration that it has value. It also happens to have far more value to the person who possesses it legitimately that it has for someone who steals it. The fact that people worry about identity theft is proof that their public (or contractual) identity matters a great deal to them.

Unfortunately, no nationwide identity management scheme is going to be perfect because the basic unit for which it seeks to account is the human being, which possesses many wondrous attributes, but alas falls short of perfection.

So, people like to have an identity (a public, verifiable, contractual identity) but the identity management system isn't going to be perfect.

The challenge is how to make the benefits of this type of identity universally available while minimizing the cost of the system's abuse.

That the system will be abused cannot be in doubt. But neither can there be any doubt that there is a tremendous amount human suffering that follows from the absence of a system.

Imagine that you don't have an identity of the type at issue here. You're pretty much shut off from much of what the world has to offer and not just the Little League World Series.

The absence of verifiable identities has undermined public health efforts (immunizations), the implementation of social safety nets, and compulsory childhood education. It keeps poor people form becoming un-poor by locking them out of the banking and credit sectors.

The choice that India confronts isn't identity theft or no identity theft; it's identity theft or poverty, inequity, suffering and endemic communicable (yet preventable) disease.

Of course those in charge of crafting ID management systems should work prudently to minimize system errors and opportunity for abuse. The adoption of biometric technologies (because of their accuracy and cost-effectiveness) in these efforts demonstrates prudence rather than carelessness.

Biometrics Used to Help Combat Human Trafficking

Southeast Asian anti-human smuggling force quietly set up (Embassy - Canada)

"Destination countries" have already laid down a framework of bilateral agreements designed to address cross-border issues, including human trafficking through the Five Country Conference.
On a practical level, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed to share biometric information, such as fingerprints, with each other to lessen immigration fraud. Under the High Value Data Sharing Protocol, Canada would be able to compare fingerprint information of asylum seekers with those stored in a partner country's immigration databases. Bilateral agreements were brokered through an immigration and border security forum called the Five Country Conference.
"Source countries" are beginning to develop the institutional, political and technological resources necessary for effective cooperation with the Five Countries.
Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the centre of gravity of human smuggling networks in the region has shifted to Malaysia and Indonesia—even as they maintain a significant presence in Thailand.

The Canadian government has established a presence in Malaysia and Indonesia, he said, including some officials working with the Bangkok-based task force. There are about another dozen people working in the region outside of Thailand, he said.

Much of the recent biometric ID management activity in Malaysia should be read with this in mind.

15 Minutes of Biometric Fame

Face Rec in Modern Art Installation (
The installation scans each visitor's facial features using biometric video analysis software and compares them to those stored in a database which features online celebrities found through searches in the world's major languages.
The museum hosting this and other installations is the National Art Museum in Beijing. Much more on the use of technology to make an artistic point at the link.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Information Security tips from Jay-Z and Kanye

Jay-Z and Kanye Show How to Prevent an Album Leak in the Digital Age (The Atlantic)

The measures employed to protect the release were a combination of physical and logical access control using tried and true methods (old-fashioned locked briefcases) as well as high tech, though inexpensive, biometrics.

More at
How Jay-Z and Kanye West Beat the Leakers With 'Watch the Throne'
To combat pre-release piracy, Kilhoffer, Grammy Award-winner for West's Graduation and John Legend's Get Lifted, claims that all sessions were saved offsite to hard drives in Goldstein's locked Pelican briefcase over the course of nine months. "Everywhere we went in hotels, we were locking hard drives and Noah took them with him," says Kilhoffer, who now travels with external memory units that can only be accessed by biometric fingerprints.

The technology, which Kilhoffer implements while traveling on West's current European tour, takes a live scan of one's finger to serve as key to access protected material. For less than $100, devices such as the Eikon Digital Privacy Manager and Zvetco Fingerprint Reader measure the finger's ridges and valleys with conductor plates, transmitting imprints through a USB cord to safeguard hard drive contents. While on the road, Kilhoffer and Dean are the sole gatekeepers to unlock the digital safes.

BIO-key International Plans to Acquire S.I.C. Biometrics

Letter of Intent Signed (
BIO-key International, Inc. (OTCBB:BKYI), a global leader in finger biometric identification technology solutions, today announced that the company has signed a letter of intent to acquire Montreal-based S.I.C. Biometrics Inc, manufacturers of biometric plug-in mobile fingerprint scanners, biometric proximity cards and access control solutions, through a combination of asset purchase and exclusive license arrangements.
S.I.C has a lot of experience integrating with Apple hardware.

Friday, August 12, 2011

London Deploys Facial Recognition Tech Against Rioters

Facial recognition in use after riots (AP via Drudge - Link no longer active)
A law enforcement official told the AP that to use the technology "you have to have a good picture of a suspect and it is only useful if you have something to match it against. In other words, the suspect already has to have a previous criminal record."
Here's a still-active link to a story on the subject:

London police use facial recognition to ID riot thugs (CBC)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Indian State of Panaji Launches UID Project

Unique identification number project to be launched today (Times of India)
"We will inform the citizens about the entire programme, with details of the enrolment centres through the media," Anand Sherkhane, director, department of planning, statistics and evaluation told TOI. Each centre will have three to five work stations, and will be equipped with machinery required for citizens' enrolment. Biometric scanning of fingerprints and the iris will be taken up for obtaining a 12-digit number.

Gambia: Biometric Voter Roll Detects Multiple Registrations

1897 Persons Suspected of Double Registration - IEC (
The IEC boss said that in the Election Act, registering more than once is an electoral offence, making it outrageous and unruly. Carayol finally confirmed that those who appeared twice at the same registration centre due to reasons such as misspelling of names or dislike of picture quality must understand that only the last card issued is the valid one and that the first is deleted.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Biometric database helps end abuse of deportation system

'Voluntary Return' of repeat border jumpers (
In the past, undocumented aliens who were arrested but had no criminal history on record or were using an alias were granted "voluntary return." But now authorities have the tools to catch forged identities and quickly pull up data on an individual's previous infractions. The IDENT database captures fingerprint data for all foreign nationals entering the United States -- information that is hard to fake -- and permits government officials to cross-check them against the digital prints of known offenders.
"Voluntary Return" applied to those not legally present in the US that didn't have criminal records. Sounds great. Less bureaucratic overhead and a "no harm, no foul" solution.

Unfortunately, without any rigorous system of ID management, the Voluntary Return program created a revolving door for some real unsavory characters so long as they could avoid getting ID'ed as repeat offenders.

It looks like the FBI's new IDENT system is closing this loophole and providing a better picture of the patterns of extra-legal migration.

Analysis: Do Employees Have a Right to Refuse Biometric Enrollment?

At the M2SYS blog:
However, shouldn’t biometric information be treated as any other personally identifiable data that an employer keeps on file like social security numbers, pictures, or bank information if you request a direct deposit? Information that, if stolen, could be used to recreate you as a person?
Like we've said before, usually about schools: If an organization can't keep your personal information secure, biometrics aren't the first thing you should be worried about.

Indian Jewellers Launch own Biometric ID Cards

Jewellers launch own I-cards (Times of India)
The tamper-proof card contains biometric info of the cardholder, said Dinesh Jain, president JID, legal and redressal forum. tnn"The information will be independently verified at all levels, and will assure the authority that the courier is genuine person from the jewellery trade," he said. "His individual details and whereabouts will be readily available," he said.

EU to Beef Up Border

370.1 million euro to European Union member states through the External Borders Fund (Sofia Echo - Bulgaria)
Ending sentence:
"Moreover, past investments in modern technology, such as biometric capture devices, have contributed to swifter processing of visa applications of third-country nationals in member states' consulates."
The first round of biometric installations have been implemented long enough that it is now possible to assess the return on investment (ROI) in the real world.

We are passing the test.

The Fake ID industry & the ID Arms Race

Latest counterfeit IDs are so good they’re dangerous (Washington Post)
The shoe box that arrived in the mail from China contained a cheap pair of shoes.

“We thought the Chinese guy had ripped us off,” said the 19-year-old who shared shots with Eney the night he died.

Until then, the transaction had gone smoothly. She made first contact through an e-mail address supplied by the acquaintance. A prompt e-mail reply laid out the deal.

“It was $300 if you just wanted one” license, she said. “It was $200 [each] for two and $75 [each] if you wanted more than 20.”...

“You can pick from a list of about 10 states,” she said. “I heard that the Pennsylvania license was the best one.”

The shoe box with postmarks from China arrived in a matter of days. After initial consternation, she flipped over one of the shoes and ripped open the sole. Out tumbled 22 brand-new, visually perfect driver’s licenses.

and some analysis by Randall Parker at FuturePundit
But since the capabilities of the fakers and deceivers keep growing and the amount of identify faking and theft grow as well an escalating response by the verifiers (e.g. bar bouncers, bank tellers, police) is a foregone conclusion.

Those with an anti- biometrics technology point of view often portray the ID management industry as motivated by a desire for more control over ordinary people without acknowledging that biometric applications are frequently a response to the unforeseen impact of technological advancement and globalization.

Technologies, such as sophisticated printing systems, that were once expensive are now cheap and it is possible to trade with nearly anyone anywhere with an internet connection and a bank account. The overall impact of these changes has been a reduction of global poverty on a scale that the world has never seen, but it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Background Checks and Fingerprints

This article gives some insight into how frequently "ordinary Americans," even minors, consent to a criminal background check.

The quotes from Ms. Gierszewski alone are worth the time spent reading the whole thing.

Fingerprinting no longer ink and paper
( - Illinois)
“It used to be ink and exciting ’cause it was a big mess, but now it’s not a mess,” said Gierszewski. “And that helps people who have a common name and have things show up on their background report that they haven’t done.

via @m2sys

India: biometrics to stem corruption and welfare fraud

Tamil Nadu to check corruption in welfare schemes (New Kerala)
He said the government will implement biometric based unique identification for the beneficiaries of various welfare schemes.

"It is expected that this initiative will reduce leakages and ensure prompt disbursement of welfare benefits to genuine beneficiaries."

Biometrics bust Sri Lankan fraudsters applying for UK visas

UK visa applicants arrested (Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka)
The UK Border Agency uncovered this deception because it takes biometric data from customers as an integral part of the visa application process.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Phoenix: Desert Schools Credit Union Adopts Voice Biometrics

Voice Biometrics Planned at Desert Schools (Credit Union Times)
To be used for "high risk transactions" and for "reducing the chance for social engineering."

Gary Laieski, CIO, has identified two high ROI applications for voice biometrics.

CyberExtruder's Aureus 3D Software Dramatically Increases FaceRec Accuracy

Biometrics in general and facial recognition in particular are getting better all the time and not just because the algorithms are getting better, though they undoubtedly are.

Software companies that organize the data that facial recognition systems use are also making giant contributions to the accuracy and usability of facial recognition systems.

CyberExtruder is one such company. We've worked with them for years and they are the real deal.

Our facial recognition applications use Aureus 3D to enhance face rec accuracy by correcting for oblique angles on either (probe and/or database) side of the identification query.

Aureus 3D is profiled at
CyberExtruder released its new Aureus 3D facial reconstruction software, which has shown an increase in facial recognition matching accuracy by 26.5 percent when compared to even the best 2D facial recognition products.

CyberExtruder has also been a devoted and energetic supporter of the non-profit AmberVision Foundation, dedicated to returning missing children to the safety of their family.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Privacy and Indian Service Providers

This is important because services such as banking customer support and medical imaging analysis are both frequently outsourced to India, and deal with private matters.
Indian Data Protection Law (
India passed its data protection law in April this year which created a lot of ripples globally. The new data protection regulation sets India at par with data protection regulation followed internationally by EU, Australia, Canada and other booming economies known for their business transactions with India which supports India’s flourishing outsourcing industry.

Security word of the day: Steganography

Updated & Bumped...

Steganography (Merriam-Webster)
- the art or practice of concealing a message, image, or file within another message, image, or file

More, including etymology at the link.

Recent news provides us with an excellent example.
Suspected al Qaeda operative encrypted terrorist plans in porn file (The Verge)
...[T]he cards and drive (found in Lodin's underwear) appeared to primarily contain a pornographic movie called "Kick Ass" and a file marked "Sexy Tanja." After weeks of work, however, investigators found that the video was actually a steganographic file, hiding over a hundred hidden documents believed to have come from senior al Qaeda members.

Network Security: Don't Forget Physical Access Control

Locking Down Physical Access Is Key (or Badge) to Security (IT Business Edge)
So much of IT’s focus on security is devoted to encrypting data and locking down the perimeter that it’s easy to forget that if somebody can just walk into your server room, they can do enough damage to your network to make the Sasser outbreak look like a forgotten password help desk ticket.
Good piece with links to other articles and resources.

Monday, August 1, 2011

U.S. immigration, E-Verify and Biometrics

US work permit system stirs immigration controversy (Stabroek News - Guyana)
The best way to prevent the system from mistakenly declaring a worker ineligible, Roney and others say, is through biometrics, such as fingerprints and photographs, or a national ID system, neither of which is politically popular.

“You really do need an E-Verify program, and you need it to be mandatory, and everyone has to use it,” said Pia Orrenius, a senior economist and policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and co-author of the book “Beside the Golden Door: U.S. Immigration Reform in a New Era of Globalization.”

“But it has to be biometric. That’s quite controversial, but only with a biometric system can you cut down on a large and rapidly growing market for document fraud.”

Roney said that, while it’s not common, authorized workers are occasionally denied an E-Verify confirmation for reasons that include employer error or outdated information.

This article neatly summarizes the issues around U.S. immigration enforcement i

ID fraud is a real problem.
Biometrics work.
A comprehensive system can't be optional.
Politics matters.

After all, ID management is about people.

Read the whole thing, the anecdote at the end illustrates the scope of the challenge.

Biometrics assist in effort to save great apes

Special software helps to save species (
With the aim of better protecting endangered species, game wardens are studying the behavior of surviving great apes in the wild. This is often painstaking work because it is difficult to distinguish between different individuals. A new software system will make things easier by analyzing the animals’ faces for individual identification.

There are other areas where biometric technologies are being applied in the life sciences. Leafsnap is an app that uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. StripeSpotter is a free open-source system with an algorithm that can identify animals in the wild and build biometric databases using photos of the different animals.

Biometric ID management technologies appear to be a small first step towards allowing computers to make sense of the world using inputs from nature rather than being limited to text inputs. Human ID management offers the big returns on investment that attract labor and capital but the technology has applicability to challenges far more diverse than human identity management.

Related thoughts:
Biometrics, object recognition and search

Malaysia Foreign Worker Normalization Update

Registration under the 6P program is to be a two step process. First legal foreign workers are registered, then the foreign workers who work in Malaysia outside the sanction of the law.

700,000 foreign workers register under 6P (Malay Mail)

These two articles give some background on why Malaysia is doing what it is doing.
I especially recommend the AP piece at CBS Moneywatch.
Malaysia Launches Amnesty For Illegal Migrant Workers (RTT News)
Malaysia starts amnesty for illegal foreign labor (CBS Moneywatch)

There is, of course, some dissent.
Employers, worker organisations want amnesty programme suspended (The Star)