Friday, December 28, 2012

Ghana banking sector embraces private sector biometrics, too

A lot of international attention has been focused on Ghana's use of biometrics for voter ID management, but Ghanaian banks have been enthusiastic adopters of the technology, as well.

Ghana Automated Clearing House transaction volumes hit almost 200% (Ghana Business News)
GhIPSS was set up by the Bank of Ghana some five years ago to lead the migration of the country into an electronic payment society. Since its establishment, the wholly owned Bank of Ghana subsidiary has introduced a biometric card called the e-zwich, an electronic clearing of cheques with express clearing session, and Payment Distribution System. Its recent addition is the gh-link Interbank ATM Transaction Switching that allows bank to share ATMs.

Illinois: Biometrics enable pay-as-you-go gym

Futuristic 24-Hour Gym Opens in Bucktown (Racked)
Sounds fancy, and with fancy comes a fancy price tag, right? Not really--because there basically isn't any staff the charge is $3.75 per visit after a base monthly charge of $19 and a $99 technology/enrollment fee. Classes (with instructors, not supervisors) start January 1.
We're going to be seeing a lot more of this.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Biometrics - one of the 100 things Entrepreneur says you need to know about in 2013.

Now, can anyone recommend a good book on bee venom?

The entire list is here.

Biometrics and a different side of the Afghan war

...from the Durango Herald:

“You never know who is coming through the gate – it is very important for me to see that I’m getting kids inside the gate and getting (them) to treatment they’re not going to receive anywhere else,” he said.

To ensure the hundreds receiving care each day are safe, Silvia and other troops scan each person’s eyes and fingers with high-tech biometric scanners that provide access to individual information.

Biometrics and ghost workers in Nigeria

Abia’s scourge of ghost workers (The Nation)
When Abia state governor Chief Theodore Orji introduced reforms in the civil service of the state which include promotion of workers due for promotion, approval of N21,000 as minimum wage, retiring those due, transferring of service of non-indigenes to their states of origin after due consultation with their home state, and insistence on biometric data capturing of all workers and pensioners in the state civil service, some cynics who believed in business as usual criticised the reforms severely.
Read the whole thing.

US-Canada information sharing

US and Canada to begin biometric sharing (Expat Forum)
Canada and the United States are to start sharing fingerprints, names, photos, birthdays and nationalities of people applying for visas from next year. The name, date of birth and gender details will be shared automatically in 2013 and by 2014 other biometric details such as photos and fingerprints will be added to the system.

'Another Brick in the Wall' was written in 1979

Washington Times Editorial: Securing America’s schools
Though the benefits of creating maximum-security schools is questionable, the negative impact on young minds is undeniable. Surveillance cameras would watch a child’s every move from kindergarten through high school. GPS devices would track them, and biometric scanners and identification cards would ensure compliance with all attendance regulations. This normalizes a police state. Instead of learning self-reliance, kids would grow up with a state-supplied — and illusory — security blanket.
Schools knowing where students are and whether or not they are attending class discourages self-reliance? Does using technology for the purpose change its nature?

Just remember 'Another Brick in the Wall' was released in 1979. High technology isn't a necessary (or sufficient) condition for police state normalization.

On another note, and in the wake of recent events, a school system in Illinois is dusting off a previously shelved plan to use biometrics to restrict access to schools to those who have been vetted beforehand:

Dist. 201 plans to launch more safety measures (Morris Daily Herald - Illinois)
The district will also re-investigate biometric thumbprint scanning systems for the vestibule, a program they began looking at a year ago.

If the system were used, all parents/guardians would provide a digital thumbprint during school registration. Along with a photo ID, the fingerprint would be in the district’s computer system. Once inside the vestibule, the parent would scan their thumb and staff would pull up the person’s photo at the same time.

Biometrics to protect customer data

Stolen credentials, basic security lapses at core of 2012 breaches (Search Security)
A common thread could be weaved through the high profile data breaches that took place in 2012. Attackers are targeting basic security lapses and configuration errors or bypassing security systems altogether by using stolen account credentials to appear as a legitimate user on the network.
Any organization that allows access to databases full of customer usernames and passwords without biometric authentication is asking for trouble. First, the number of people who have this sort of access should be limited to as few individuals as possible and those should be the types of people who understand both why the security measures are necessary and how to use them.

"We have no clear concept of identity"

Globalization, technology and interoperability are having profound effects on ID.

Experts: Law on biometric passports does not meet European standards (Kyiv Post)

Better ID technology means more effective humanitarian assistance

South Sudan: Modern Technology Helps Meet the Needs of Refugees (All Africa)
Technology is changing all spheres of life, including humanitarian interventions. In South Sudan, UNHCR is using satellite imagery, interactive mapping, digital fingerprinting and text messaging to strengthen refugee protection, help the most vulnerable and reach out to refugees in urban areas.

UNHCR is conducting the first biometric registration exercise in South Sudan using digital fingerprinting technology. The nearly 200,000 refugees had been registered in standard databases, but biometrics will help to identify refugees more quickly so they can receive better assistance.
Much more at the link. Better ID tech makes effective delivery of nutrition and health services easier.

UIDAI tightens enrollment requirements

It looks like about 94% of the UID numbers issued without biometrics have had to be cancelled.

UIDAI cancels 3.84 lakh bogus Aadhaar enrolments (CIOL)
The UIDAI has cancelled 3.84 lakh Aadhaar numbers which were reportedly prepared under the biometric clause.

According to biometric clause, the authorised enrolment agencies have been granted the permission to enrol people without taking biometrics like fingerprints and iris scan. But in any case, the enrolment agency must procure photograph and demographic information of the people. As of now, 4.10 lakh Aadhaar numbers have been generated under the biometric exception clause, out of which the UIDAI has directed to scrap 3.84 lakh Aadhaar numbers.
This isn't too surprising. Last July, the story of UID numbers being issued to plants got quite a bit of attention and it was clear then that changes were coming to the process by which the UIDAI dealt with the private entities that underpin the enrollment function.

With today's news and the accompanying hard numbers, it seems that there was an audit designed to put some specificity to what everyone knew was a flaw in a system where unscrupulous enrollment agencies could create large volumes of fake enrollments for which they would then be paid.

Now the numbers are in and the scale of the ID fraud possible in the absence of a biometric identifier is known.

The remedies are pretty clear.

Issuing a UID number without biometrics should only be done under very particular circumstances and with a very high degree of oversight.

Firms participating in the enrollment process should face incentives and sanctions based upon their performance. That could mean bonuses for firms with very good performance, penalties for bad data practices, and worse for those actively committing fraud.

The good news is that database technology makes the technical part of figuring out who's doing what fairly straightforward. The hard part, as always, will be agreeing on the nature of the carrots and sticks to be deployed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ramping up a revolution in social safety nets

As the government gets ready to roll out its ambitious cash transfer of subsidies scheme on January 1, an on-the-ground report on how the experiments are working out (Business Standard)

The rush to open bank accounts, the bureaucratic moving pieces and a couple of very promising pilot programs that use biometric verification for direct payments to the poor.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On biometric ID

Director-General, National Identity Management Commission, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, in an interview with Punch:
Many Nigerians are of the view that the issuance of national identification numbers and cards will add no value to their lives, how will you react to this?

That is not true! I don’t think many Nigerians think that way, you will probably be thinking that the cynicism of the past will continue and that’s why we have embarked on an awareness campaign to enlighten people, to make them understand that what we had done in the past might have achieved limited success, but what we are doing today is different from what we did in the past.

In the past, the focus was on the issuance of an identification card; but today, we have made it slightly different to say that what we need first and foremost is to be able to create and manage identities. And one way to manage the identity is to issue the card. The card is not an end in itself but a means to an end; that end is to be able to affirm and confirm your identity that used to be what we ignored in the past.

In the past, we issued identification cards in the mistaken belief that once we issued a card, we have been able to secure and genuinely confirm the identity of an individual, which is not true because if you go to any business centre you can create a photo ID. So, what we do now is to say, what are those things that will be put in place that will be accepted by everybody as a means by which you can affirm your identity?

And one of the key features of that system is the use of the biometrics; the use of biometrics in that sense means that you can always confirm using the biometrics that the identity that has been revealed or that we have sort to confirm is exactly the identity that we want to deal with.

More year-end list goodness

7 tech trends that will impact your business in 2013 (cnme online)

In at #3 - Passwords will fade into oblivion

IBM 5 in 5 2012

Five technologies coming in the next five years according to IBM research. 

From this year's list...

Computers that can "see"


Biometrics, object recognition and search
(Facial Recognition vs Human) & (Facial Recognition + Human)

India: UID exposing ghost welfare beneficiaries and what the numbers mean

Aadhar helps weed out fake ration cards in Andhra  (The Indian Express)
Linking the public distribution system to Aadhar has been unearthing a huge number of fake or duplicate ration cards and civil supplies officials are now counting their savings per ration shop. In some Andhra Pradesh districts where enrolment is high, officials have counted savings up to Rs 10-12 crore every month.

“In Hyderabad district we are seeing savings of Rs 40,000 per fair-price shop per month,” says commissioner of civil supplies Harpreet Singh. “In East Godavari, it is Rs 30,000. Since the online centralised data cannot be manipulated at shop level, only the intended beneficiaries are able to take rations. Both the Centre and the state, which give heavy subsidies, are saving.”
I haven't done this in a while.

Of course, the numbers up there are big and it seems pretty bad but what does it mean?

First the money:
Rs 11 crore = 110,000,000 rupees = USD 2 million  (2,005,424.95 as of today)

Then what the money means in context:
India GDP - per capita (PPP): $3,700 (2011 est.)

Two million dollars represents the annual earnings of 542 average Indians being stolen from the welfare system in just this one type of scheme (fake cards at ration shops) every month in this one district alone.

To compare apples to apples (years to years), that's the annual productive capacity of 6,504 Indians disappearing into the pockets of fraudsters in a single district every year.

There are 640 districts in India.

The point of biometric voter verification

Isn't that the point?

"Some voters could not exercise their franchise because the verification device rejected them even though they were in possession of their voter's ID card and their names were in the register." (Peace FM)

How about...?

Some prospective voters could not exercise the franchise because the verification device rejected them even though they were in possession of a voter's ID card and their names were in the register. 

...which is precisely the point of biometric voter verification. Entities that have adopted biometric verification have implicitly stated that the card and the name are not sufficient to prove identity. Cards are forged. The names of the dead remain on the registry. Ghost voters (who don't have fingerprints) are invented. Those things really happen.

On the other hand it is possible, even likely, that some number of people legitimately entitled to vote, and duly registered were prevented from casting a ballot by misapplication of the hardware, a database error or a bad ID transaction due to a damaged finger or dirty sensor, but the article doesn't produce any examples.

Nevertheless, the electoral commission would be well served to seek out individuals who claim to fit the description quoted above in order to audit the process. Did they register? Is their template in the database? Did it make it on to the proper verification terminal for the appropriate polling place? Etc.

So far, the article's five comments are unanimous. Verification should stay

South Florida: Baptist Health hospitals adopt biometrics for patient ID

New hand scanners being used in local hospital to identify patients (First Coast News)
You used to have to give your name, a form of ID, often a social security number when you checked into hospitals, but now all you may need is your palm.

Baptist Health is using new technology now that identifies each patient by the vein pattern in their hand. The technology is called the Palm Vein Biometric Identification System.

The computer stores the patient's vein pattern as a binary number connected to your file, so anywhere you go within the Baptist Health system, you can be identified and your records pulled up by simply scanning your hand.

The Director of Information Services, Jim Bilsky, says the motives behind this new technology is to stop identity theft and ID Card sharing. Also to help identify patients that are brought in unconscious during emergency situations.
This one happens t be about patient ID, but it's hard to think of an identity management challenge hospitals don't have.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New Zealand Post office to offer ID assurance services

New Zealand Post online ID system backed by lawmakers (Post & Parcel)
New Zealand has adopted legislation granting the powers for a new national online identity verification service run by the government jointly with New Zealand Post.

The Electronic Identity Verification Act was passed by the nation’s Parliament last week, allowing private sector organisations to access the RealMe ID verification service.

The service launches in 2013 to verify people that use certain services over the Internet are who they claim to be.
NZ Post is set to get even more involved in ID services (see last year's New Zealand ID Management: New Possibilities).

Around the world, enterprising postal services — who have seen their traditional business model of moving paper around steadily eroded — have been changing adding more explicit identity management services. I say "more explicit" because I believe it can be argued that the primary function of the postal service has always been identity management, the paper part was just ancillary to the ID part.

This post, The Post Office, Identity Assurance & Biometrics, expands on the theme.

Click Postal Service (or use the label in the footer) for more on post offices and ID services.

Quote of the day...

...from Virtual-Strategy Magazine:
“eID projects, along with eGovernment programs play a central role in the evolution of governance in the region for an increased level of service to the populations”

ID technologies are helping some countries leap-frog the costly and labor-intensive methods big governments developed in the industrial age.

h/t @M2SYS

Tech and policy

Malay Mail: Monitor deportee re-entry with biometrics or legalize and regulate prostitution.

Face recognition passport checks available to Norwegians returning via Oslo

Self-service Passport Control is Introduced The Nordic Page (The Nordic Page)
The technology is based on face recognition and has a two-stage operation. After passing the first gate, traveler’s face is scanned to compare with the picture on the passport. After the image match is completed, the next door is opened and the border control finishes. The process takes about 15 seconds.
This seems like a well-conceived deployment. Using the face photo in the passport document eliminates the need for a huge database of all the passport photos in the world.

Still, there are a couple of things account for.

For passports without a chip, it it is possible that clumsier fakes involving switched passport photos would pass an automated screening than would pass a human inspection. For chip-based passports, comparing the picture on the chip with the picture on the document would account for this (or make such a fake a whole lot more difficult).

There is also the question of passport chip adoption and interoperability. Not every current passport is an ePassport and not every ePassport can be read by every other country. For these reasons, the new service is only available to Norwegians.

It makes sense to move incrementally on these things and to tackle challenges a few at a time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Biometrics for convenience and security

Air travellers frustrated by security checks: IATA study (The Hindu)
The Survey, which included passengers from 114 countries who had travelled by air in the last 12 months, was released late Thursday in Geneva. The participating countries include India, China, US, Canada, UAE, Ukraine, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq.
Among the respondents of the survey, 77 per cent were comfortable to use biometric identification for more convenient airport transit and 71 per cent would prefer to use a self-boarding device at the gate, such as a mobile phone.

An even greater majority (86 per cent) were prepared to provide the airline their passport details in advance to allow a smoother journey. While only a quarter of the respondents have ever used an automated immigration border gate on arrival at an airport using their ePassport or ID card, as high as 91 per cent said they would be interested in such a service to allow a faster arrival process.
There is little to no privacy in international travel. Many people just want to be able to complete the ID processes relied upon by security professionals with a little less hassle.

South Africa to modernize border

Plan for new border agency at ‘advanced stage’ (Business Day)
"Many countries have taken steps to ensure that there is integrated management of borders to prevent traffic in illicit goods and passage of illegal foreign nationals," she said. "We are developing a white paper that will be presented to the Cabinet. The agency will ensure greater co-ordination and better border management."

Addressing the media for the first time since she took over the portfolio from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Ms Pandor said her department was on track with its modernisation processes, which included upgrading IT infrastructure; live capture systems for identity documents, passports, permits and visas; and the new national population register system that would carry records of births and citizens.

Preventing the visa switcheroo

Canada to require biometric data with some visa applications from 2013 (
The biometric data required will be a photograph and fingerprints. The information will be held on a database and will be checked when the applicant arrives in Canada to ensure that the correct person has travelled to Canada. The system will come into operation in 2013.

Maryland school halts biometric deployment in lunchrooms

Controversial Carroll school palm scanners discontinued (Baltimore Sun)
School Superintendent Stephen Guthrie announced his decision Wednesday to halt use of the system, called PalmSecure, and to ask officials to look at other options. His announcement came after a meeting with County Commissioner Doug Howard, who cited concerns among parents who worried about possible security breaches.

In announcing his decision, Guthrie said he wanted to avoid alienating what he called a "core group" of a few community members who raised the concerns.

He said he believes the system is secure.
Cases like this are fairly rare.

School administrators should be prepared for a vocal minority to raise security and privacy concerns.

In most cases where schools implement biometric point of sale terminals for school lunch administration, these concerns are overcome for the vast majority of parents through good communication, an opt-out mechanism and making sure that students aren't enrolled in a system before parents have heard about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

India: Plugging welfare leakages with biometrics

The Hindu - The State government of Karnataka has rejected more than 118,000 applications seeking ration cards in Gulbarga and Yadgir districts. The state has also cancelled 5.2 million ration cards.

Since, biometric details have been required in association with applications for public assistance, fewer applications have passed muster with the authorities.

The linked article is heavy on statistics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

World Record Academy recognizes UAE population register as the largest biometric database in the world.

UAE receives official certification for largest biometric database (Gulf News)
The population register of Emirates Identity Authority (Emirates ID) has more than 103 million digital fingerprints and more than 15 million digital facial recognition records, which includes multiple records of each UAE resident, and digital signatures as of mid-October 2012.

World Record Academy has now recognised it as the largest such database in the world.
The FBI was unavailable for comment.

UIDAI success is national progress

Saral Money, an initiative being leveraged by VISA on Aadhaar platform, will ease money transactions (CIOL)
RS Sharma UIDAI DG informed that 27 crore [270 million] individuals have been enrolled while 22 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued so far. Sharma said that they are currently enrolling 2 crore citizens on a monthly basis. ''The objective is to facilitate banking access to the common man. The Saral Money allows people to transact through handheld devices available at local neighborhood shops,'' he said.
Kind of like a fingerprint Western Union. Much more at the link.

Mobile biometrics

Mobile Biometrics: The Next Phase of Enterprise Authentication? (Network Computing)
Smartphones and tablets have the potential to become powerful platforms for enterprise authentication. By combining biometric capabilities such as a fingerprint reader or voice recognition software with mobile devices that users carry with them all the time, enterprises may be able to roll out two-factor authentication as part of an identity and access management (IAM) infrastructure.
See also: Mobile Devices and Biometric Modalities

Canada military to spread biometric knowledge domestically

Canadian Forces Expands Its Biometric Capabilities But Remains Silent On The Details (Ottawa Citizen)
...[I]n an April 2010 directive issued by then Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the military was ordered to expand such capabilities beyond those being detained in Afghanistan.

The directive called on Canadian Forces planners to “shape” research conducted by the DND’s science organization, Defence Research and Development Canada, so they could identify new future technologies that could improve the collection of biometric data.
The directive was aimed at dealing with the Afghanistan mission. But it didn’t explain whether the call to expand biometric capabilities to support other government departments, as well as the need to conduct new research, was for future international missions, support for domestic operations or a combination of both.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fingerprint ID system taken offline, jail releases wrong man

This is why Intake-and-Release biometrics are gaining popularity in jail management circles...

Escaped Inmate Captured As Investigation Continues At The Chatham County Jail  (Old link dead)
The Georgia jail that released the wrong prisoner ordinarily uses fingerprint biometrics to ensure that the correct person is being set free. The system, however, was not in use at the time.

UPDATE: There is still video available of the story.

Australia changes privacy law regarding criminal investigations

Federal Government removes ban on biometric data used for crime-fighting
The Gillard Government's new privacy legislation has removed the ban on biometric data being handed to crime-fighting agencies.

Officials say the move could be of immense benefit in fighting crime, but privacy lobbyists liken it to a "Big Brother" development.

The Attorney-General's Department yesterday revealed police would be able to ask private companies - including shops, pubs and clubs - to hand over patrons' facial scans.

"These changes will allow, for example, a pub to pass on to police a face scan of someone involved in a glassing attack," a spokeswoman said.

"Or, police could ask a government agency to help them identify an alleged murderer through matching an image obtained via CCTV (closed circuit television) with client photos."
Note: "Facial scan" is another term for "Photo."

If the police can't ask for evidence helpful in solving a crime, why have police (or privately owned CCTV cameras) in the first place?

Biometric technology, like all analytic tools, works both ways. It can eliminate suspects as well as indicting them.

All in: Second round of Fiji biometric voter enrollment closes


Fiji's Voter Registration Breaks Half a Million (Press Release - PR Newswire)
Fiji has marked another significant milestone in its path to true parliamentary democracy with the announcement that more than half a million Fijians have registered to vote in the scheduled elections in 2014. The 504,588 registered Fijian voters represent more than 80% of the estimated number of eligible voters, and registration will continue in 2013, notably for Fijians living overseas.
Registration will now close while the Elections Office processes the new registrations and cleanses the list of fraudulent or duplicate entries. After the first round of registration, 30 trained clerks scrutinised the voter list and removed 1,441 problematic entries. "The easy and quick identification of these problematic entries is proof that the Electronic Registration System does exactly what it is meant to do," the Attorney-General said.
Back in September, we noted that "close to half a million" (488,734) Fijians had registered in the biometric voter ID system. That figure represented about 80% of the eligible population, so it's not surprising that enrollment is leveling off. There aren't that many people left to enroll.

The voter ID will also be valid for access to a range of other government services. (Fiji Times)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Congratulations to Ghana

It looks like Ghana pulled off the most pervasive national biometrically verified elections ever attempted. Brazil probably biometrically verifies more voters than Ghana just did but Brazil is taking a gradual approach to biometric voter verification, scheduled for complete coverage by 2018.

Ghana went straight for blanket coverage and by most accounts did quite well. Of course nothing is perfect. Due to a lack of election materials and some problems with the biometric machinery, some polling places opened late on Friday and reopened on Saturday which wasn't in the original program.

I had an email exchange over the weekend with a colleague in Accra who has worked with electoral biometrics in Ghana. It leads me to believe that this article posted at Modern Ghana gets things just about right.

Training In Use Of Biometric Must Be Top Priority In Next Election—CODEO Recommends
The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to actively engage electoral officers and all persons associated with the Biometric Verification Machines process in intensive education prior to future elections.
According to CODEO however, “the problems and lapses in the voting process on December 7 which resulted in the adjournment of the process did not fundamentally undermine the overall integrity of the conduct of the polling, of counting and collation of ballots… In spite of the logistical and technical challenges, CODEO is of the view that the December Presidential and General elections have been well conducted.”
We've said before, training electoral workers and informing the public is a HUGE part of the challenge of implementing biometric elections. It's also one of the most expensive parts — more expensive than the technology (if done correctly), even in places with low labor costs.

Biometrics, like elections, are about people. So, congratulations to the people of Ghana on the success of the biometric voter enrollment and verification project.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good face rec article at the BBC

Can disguises fool surveillance technology? (BBC)
putting a scarf over the mouth and nose, or simply wearing dark glasses could fool the system. However, this is beginning to change, says Shengcai Liao, an assistant professor at the Center for Biometrics and Security Research in Beijing, China. He says new techniques are being developed that can use information from the nose or mouth alone if the eyes are occluded, or from the eyes and eyebrows if a scarf is covering the lower part of the face. "It's not possible to recognize a fully occluded face, but we can currently recognize faces with 30% or even 50% occlusion," he said. "We have even had success performing recognition from a mouth alone - something that it would be very difficult for a human to do."

But what about other countermeasures, such as those used by McAfee, which included skin darkening, facial distortion and colouring his hair?
I'm still a fan of CV Dazzle. If you're going to change your appearance to "jam" facial recognition systems, you can make a bolder fashion statement than wearing a ski mask. Well, I guess Ski Mask is a pretty bold fashion statement, but click over to CV Dazzle for other options that don't scream "I just robbed a bank."

Howie Woo also has a more cheery alternative for those committed to the mask, but his approach has its own risks.

Ghana Votes

Skimming the early reports, it appears that some number of polling places opened late due to some logistical issues and some people who presented themselves at the polls were not able to pass muster with the biometric verification.

The Ghana News Agency (GNA) is doing a lot of data-centered reporting from a lot of polling places scattered around the country. Their Politics page is here.

Here's a good example of what GNA is reporting:

Peaceful voting so far but not without hitches (GNA)

A thorough analysis of the biometric voter systems' performance is, of course, going to have to wait.

[9:30 EST]
Good background story at Modern Ghana from Accra, the capital: Ghana votes in tightly contested presidentials poll.
While many polling stations opened on time, a number started late due to the delayed delivery of materials, causing frustration among voters and officials. Voter biometric fingerprinting was also being used for the first time.
[9:40 EST]
Ghana Web also has a good page: Ghana Elections Updates: Five Presidential Candidates Vote. Scroll down to the bottom for minute-by-minute updates from different places — a woman going into labor and voting with her sister before going to the hospital, politicians voting, technical problems, etc. The earliest updates are at the bottom.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eye biometrics with a mobile phone camera

Mobile technology is crying out for better user authentication. Fingerprints would seem like a good match, but there's a hardware chicken-and-egg problem: no fingerprint sensor hardware means no apps and no apps means no manufacturer has decided (long-term) to drive up the cost of their handset to provide a feature few may use.

That means biometric app developers interested in verification using mobile devices have concentrated on modalities that can use the sensors that are already ubiquitous in mobile hardware.

A phone without a microphone isn't a phone anymore so the developers of voice biometrics are in pretty good shape. And though a camera isn't a strictly necessary feature on a mobile device, they all seem to have them. That invites facial recognition, and eye-based biometrics developers into the mobile world.

All three (face, eye, voice) face challenges.

Scan Eyes to unlock spartphones (PSFK)
If I'm reading this article correctly, or more accurately making the correct inference from the picture that accompanies it*, EyeVerify seems to be side-stepping the challenges associated with iris biometrics and camera resolution by switching to an analysis of sclera vasculation — the veins on the white part — for mobile verification.

That's pretty cool.

See also:
Mobile Devices and Biometric Modalities

* According to the EyeVerify site, that was the correct inference.

Ghana: Day before election, the focus is on politics

Ghana: Election Fever Grips the Nation (All Africa)

On the day before Ghana's sixth presidential election, the issue of the biometric voter system has faded into the background and the issues that more typically surround elections have come to the forefront.

The Electoral Commission, the biometric system vendor, Ghanaian citizens in general and citizens of other aspiring democracies will certainly be hoping that continues to be the case over the next few days.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"The best way to kill a good idea is to implement it badly"

‘Cash transfer’ in urban centres for foodgrains, LPG, etc., is better than picking some remote rural district only to claim that the scheme has failed. (The Hindu Business Line)
The best way to kill a good idea is to implement it badly. One hopes that direct cash transfer of government funds under various welfare schemes to the bank accounts of their intended beneficiaries does not meet this fate. For, it is too good an idea to be discarded, notwithstanding all the vested interests that stand to lose from its success. All the more reason, then, for the Government to take extra care in demonstrating its feasibility on the ground, thereby silencing the prophets of doom – including those for whom welfare programmes are a means for lining their own pockets. It is in this context that reports of beneficiaries not receiving any money in their bank accounts, even in select blocks where direct payment of subsidy against kerosene purchases at market rates is being tried out on a pilot scale, make for disturbing reading. It is almost as though there is organised sabotage at work."
The unnamed author of this opinion piece certainly seems to understand the stakes involved in the next phase of India's UID project.

Things are about to get real.

Biometrics help ID fugitive officer at border crossing

Former officer arrested at bridge (Brownsville Herald)
He was arrested and accused in 2008 of being involved in unlawful firearm purchases and failing to appear at his arraignment, according to a 2009 news release from then-U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson.

Duenez walked up to the bridge and presented his Texas driver’s license and U.S. birth certificate, CBP said in a news release.

“Preliminary checks revealed that the individual, later identified as Armando Duenez, was a possible match to an arrest warrant and was referred to secondary for further inspection,” the press release states.

During secondary inspection, biometric checks through CBP and law-enforcement databases matched him to a U.S. Marshals warrant, according to CBP.

First reports on Ghana biometric election

Though Friday is election day in Ghana, the first real votes were cast yesterday by polling workers and electoral security personnel.

The Daily Guide has a run-down of how things went: Soldiers, Police Go Wild Over Missing Names.

It is not entirely clear from the article which part of the ID management process (if any) isn't performing optimally.

Is voice the killer app for mobile ID?

The Rise of Voice Biometrics for Mobile Phones (MIT Technology Review) 
Analysis of voice verification technology from a security angleThe question of course is which biometric system to use. Face, fingerpint and iris recognition are all topics of intense research. But the most obvious choice for a mobile phone is surely voice identification. However, this approach has been plagued with problems.

For example, people’s voices can change dramatically when they are ill or in a hurry. What’s more, it’s relatively easy to record somebody’s voice during authentication and use that to break the system. So many groups have steered away from voice biometrics.

That could be set to change.
Mobile devices already contain the hardware required to deliver two biometric modalities: a camera for facial recognition and a microphone for voice. These modalities present challenges not usually associated with fingerprint biometrics — in the case of facial recognition challenges include lighting and the well-publicized photograph hack; for voice, background noise (etc.) can be a problem — but they offer the advantage that the hardware is "free" and never going to be yanked out of mobile devices. That's quite an advantage, and it points to why face and voice biometrics are the front-runners for handset biometrics.

This post has a longer discussion of mobile ID management and hardware.

Fingerprint sensors market $255 million by 2018

Global fingerprint sensors market the most popular form of biometric technology — The global fingerprint sensors market has been forecast to hit a value of US$255 million by 2018, driven by technological advancements and growth in several Internet applications. Social networks' demand for a robust mechanism for securing the digital identity of users represents another important growth driver. (Companies & Markets)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

India UID: Things are about to get real

In simple terms, an ID project has two parts: enrollment and verification.

Enrollment is the process by which a user is vetted by, entered into, or purchases an ID management regime.

Verification is when the ID management solution actually has to fulfill its intended function.

You don't really know for certain if the key you just had made is going to open your front door until you try it. You won't know if the combination lock you just bought works until you try it. And India won't know how smoothly the UID-based system can provide a transition away from the subsidy system to the cash transfer system until it gives it a try.

Verification is where the rubber meets the road and India is about to take its first UID test drive as Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, announced last month the launch of a direct electronic cash transfer scheme leveraging India’s Unique Identification (UID) Programme. (FutureGov)

The government has announced that direct cash transfer of subsidies to the bank accounts of the recipients would start in 51 out of India’s 659 districts from January 2013 and would be gradually extended to the rest of the country by April 2014. (The Hindu)

Hopefully things go well. It's hard to overstate the challenge involved or the importance of the project's success.

Biometrics experts on technology & privacy

Biometrics and Privacy: A Positive Match (accenture) ...Views from leading biometrics specialists on how to reap the benefits offered by biometric solutions while preserving and enhancing the individual’s right to privacy.

The (5 min.) video is very well edited from interviews conducted among industry experts at the Biometrics 2012, London confab. It isn't posted in an embeddable format or I'd have it for you here, but it's very much clicking over to accenture to view it.

A threep-page pdf transcript of the quotes, with attribution, is here.

The quotes are excellent individually. Collectively they reflect that the people work in the biometrics industry have devoted considerable thought into the way biometric technologies can be used to improve people's lives.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is the Five Country Conference hitting its stride on ID?

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (Five Country Conference) share information, including biometrics, on foreign visitors. Reading between the lines of the article linked below, they appear to hitting their stride.

Biometrics has "just completely changed the way we do business," DHS director of US-VISIT. (Fierce Homeland Security)

See also:
Privacy Impact Assessment for the US-VISIT Five Country Joint Enrollment and Information-Sharing Project (2009 pdf at

Ghana election context

ID management is about people.

The following article about Ghana isn't about biometrics but it provides some of the context in which Friday's biometric (registration and verification) elections will occur this Friday.

Biometrics have helped put rigorous ID management systems within the reach of organizations that couldn't obtain them before.

Coup era over, Ghana showcases African democracy (Las Vegas Sun)
"The reason Ghanaians are so drawn to democracy," analyst Jonah said, "is because they have seen that democracy in Western countries has brought a very high level of development, and they want to be like America, they want to be like Britain."

He said that if the rulers can deliver the services the people need, "Then people will say, `OK, democracy isn't just every four years selecting people. Democracy also brings development.'"

Ghana announces steps toward fingerprint passports

Biometric Passport Project Launched (
The Biometric Passport – This passport captures a holder’s facial features especially the iris as well as biometric data of finger-prints which link the holder to the passport. The mode of application and acquisition is that the owner’s biometric data is initially covered and later verified to ensure the right ownership on delivery. Biometric data of finger-prints, eyes and hand geometry are scientifically person-specific and scarcely vary in the life time of individual human beings.

Ghana biometric voter verification

Voter Verification Machines Are Reliable-EC
"The verification machines for this year’s general election were custom-made for Ghana and are more than 99 per cent reliable, says Mrs Gloria Asante, a Principal Electoral officer at the Electoral Commission."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pakistan moves toward biometric verification of pensioners

Pensioners woes to end thru Biometrics Smart Card: NADRA (Pakistan Observer)
Islamabad—National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Thursday claimed that it has developed a mechanism to issue Biometrics Smart Cards to facilitate pensioners. The programme would help the pensioners to withdraw their pension from any biometrics enabled platform used by banks, post offices and any other alternative channels. All the technology components are fully developed by NADRA, tested and ready for deployment.

SC Magazine announces 2013 reader trust awards finalists

2013 SC Magazine US Awards Finalists
Biometrics makes its appearance under the Best Multifactor Product category.

Australia to test drive ABIS developed for US by Northrop Grumman

Australia to test biometric system (UPI)
Australia's Defense Department has received a trial proof of concept for an automated biometric information system from Northrop Grumman.

The proof of concept, modeled after the U.S. Department of Defense Automated Biometric Identification System, will be used to produce biometrically enabled intelligence.

Asha uses biometrics to fight tuberculosis in India

Excellent Idea of the Day: TB Tracker Halts Disease's Spread (MSNBC)
Biometric systems are used to track people. A researcher from Microsoft is showing they can also help keep tabs on the spread of tuberculosis, and even stop it.

Partnered with the non-profit Project Asha, Bill Thies, who works at Microsoft Research India, developed a way to use a simple fingerprint reader and a netbook to track tuberculosis patients in India.

This may sound big brother-ish, but it's important to make sure TB patients return to local clinics to get their medications. TB is relatively easy to treat and cure, with a standard course of antibiotics. But many patients don't keep taking the drugs because they feel better. "The challenge is to make sure they finish the course of treatment," Thies told Discovery News.
Read the whole thing. Tuberculosis is a scourge that is preventable but tenacious.

The Asha web site is here
Twitter: @AshaSociety

UPDATE... Ukraine: New passport law, no fingerprint for now


Yanukovych signs law on biometric passports (Kyiv Post)
The document foresees the introduction of electronic passports containing electronic chips with biometric information for traveling abroad, according to standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

According to the law, the passports of Ukrainian citizens will be produced in the form of cards with contactless smart chips and issued no later than 30 calendar days from the date of the submission of a relevant application. The electronic passports will include the name of the state, the name of the document, the full name of the holder, the holder's gender, citizenship, date of birth, and a unique number in the register, the number of the document, the date of the document's expiry, the date of issue of the document, the name of the agency that issued the document, the place of birth, a photo and the signature of the holder.
I was going to write the post title as "Ukraine: New passport law, no biometrics for now," but ID photos are biometrics.

This press release says that the Ukraine passport will, in fact, contain fingerprints. It states, in part:

Ukraine approved the introduction of electronic IDs and creation of the state demographic register in the country. The relevant law, signed today by President Yanukovych, will take effect on January 1st, 2013. It stipulates the introduction of the documents for traveling abroad that have a built-in proximity chip with registry information on the holder. The IDs will comply with the standards recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

It will take 30 days to produce such an ID, which will hold information about name, sex, citizenship, birth date and place of residence of a person, their photo, signature, and additional biometric data, as well as issue and expiration dates. The law clarifies that digitalized signature and photograph of a person's face constitute main biometric data, while digitalized fingerprints are additional biometric data. [emphasis mine]

Aside from buttressing the point made above about that face photos are biometrics, the release strongly hints that fingerprint biometrics will be a part of the new passport. If that's the case, the fact was omitted from yesterday's Kyiv Post piece. Perhaps the press release contains enough ambuguity to interpret both pieces as accurate.

We'll keep an eye out for new information.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is logical access control set to get a lot more invasive?

Will You Sacrifice Privacy For A Better Password? (Forbes)

Farm Bureau working group suggests biometric Ag Card for migrant workers

Would an ‘ag card’ labor proposal work for agriculture? (Western Farm Press)
To help alleviate labor shortages in U.S. agriculture, an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) working group has proposed work authorization for “a limited population of key workers that have agricultural experience and will continue to work in agriculture to remain in status on what we call an ‘ag card,’” says Kristi Boswell, AFBF director of congressional relations.

The card would be biometric and carried by migrant laborers to prove work authorization.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Because the obvious is rarely stated often enough...

Biometrics security is not foolproof (Police One) — A discussion of passwords, the Windows registry, and the UPEK fingerprint password manager with techie cop Tim Dees.

Our 2¢ here.

Irish privacy commissioner's report

It's mostly inspired by the Facebook photo tagging affair but it deals with privacy issues and biometrics in a holistic way.

Ireland: Preserving Privacy In The Age Of Biometrics (mondaq)
The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner ('ODPC') recently published its audit report regarding Facebook. The audit was undertaken to determine whether Facebook had implemented recommendations stemming from the ODPC's first audit in 2011. While the audit was largely positive in its findings, the photo tagging feature introduced by Facebook, 'tag suggestion', was deemed by the ODPC to be a step too far for compliance with European data protection rules. This tool used cutting-edge facial recognition technology to automatically suggest the matching of names and pictures, i.e. upon the Facebook user uploading a photo, 'tag suggestion' would prompt the names of the individuals appearing in such image.
Consent, contract and transparency are all discussed in some detail at the link and we've discussed those topics philosophically on this blog in the past. There is also an analysis of proportionality in the linked article. Proportionality is a concept seen a lot in discussions of privacy issues involving European government institutions. It's not a big part of privacy discussions in the United States.

In Europe, governments seem to feel freer to proactively inject themselves into arrangements between private entities than do governments in the United States. The recent French decision re biometrics for time-and-attendance is a good example of the invocation of proportionality to regulate the behavior of private entities.

In the United States, negligence, liability and torts seem to fill some of the roles proportionality plays in Europe. Since the legal system in the United States generally holds that one cannot consent to another party's negligence, negligent parties are exposed to civil suits in the event that a data breach harmful to individuals occurs.

In general, it seems that the European approach is more proactive and government driven while the approach in the United States is more reactive and driven by private interests.

Fingerprint pot-dispensing machines big news in Massachusetts

A secure stop for pot? (MetroWest Daily News)
After voters this month legalized medical marijuana, an Arizona businessman is opening an office in Natick, hoping his biometric dispensing system becomes the standard used in Bay State dispensaries.

Bruce Bedrick, CEO of consulting firm Kind Clinics LLC and manufacturer Medbox Inc., said it prevents people from obtaining marijuana fraudulently.
Medbox was also in the news lately when investors looking to cash in on medical marijuana referendums in the United States drove Medbox shares from $3.14 per share before the election to $215.00 per share on November 15.

Click here for a current quote.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Civil group publishes report on Ghana biometric voter registration

Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) final Statement nationwide Biometric Voter Registration exercise (Citifm Online)
The goal of CODEO’s BVR observation was to promote a credible voter registration in Ghana, which is accurate and will contribute to peaceful election outcomes. With the generous assistance from the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DfID):

CODEO recruited, trained and deployed a total of 650 of its members to observe the entire BVR registration exercise. This observation covered a random sample of 600 registration centers drawn from 300 Electoral Areas in 100 districts in all 10 regions of Ghana. In order to obtain a nationally representative sample, key consideration was given to the total number of registration centers in each of the 10 Regions in the country and the same was repeated at the regional, district and electoral area levels. This allowed CODEO to obtain a true picture of the BVR exercise nationwide over the four phases of the exercise.
Their findings are likely of interest to others contemplating very large scale identity management deployments.

We just love it. No one wants to go back.

Palm scanners get thumbs up in schools, hospitals (USA Today)
Palm-scanning technology is popping up nationwide as a bona fide biometric tracker of identities, and it appears poised to make the jump from schools and hospitals to other sectors of the economy including ATM usage and retail. It also has applications as a secure identifier for cloud computing.

Here's how it works: Using the same near-infrared technology that comes in a TV remote control or Nintendo Wii video game, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below a person's skin. That image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded and digitized.
It's not hard to see why palm vein scanners are attractive in many applications. Users don't have to touch anything, they're fast, and the biometric is more difficult than some others to spoof.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blogging will resume Monday UPDATE: Make that Tuesday.

We're taking some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Blogging will resume, at the latest, Monday.

UPDATE: Due to a change in travel plans, we'll be back in action Tuesday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Biometrics & the Michigan State Police

New technologies help police ID suspected crooks (South Bend Tribune)
11/2-year-old Biometrics and Identification Division of the State Police makes Michigan the first state to have a separate office working on criminal justice biometrics.
"Criminals are known for being untruthful, and they have a motive to hide their identity. So it's up to law enforcement to find out who they really are and find out if they may be wanted for other crimes in other places across the state or the country," he said.

Early reports on Sierra Leone elections are cautiously optimistic ahead of results

WASHINGTON POST: Sierra Leone carried out a largely peaceful and well-conducted vote despite isolated reports of money changing hands and polling stations marred by bees and lack of light, observers said Monday.

AFP: Sierra Leone's election received kudos from observers Monday for being peaceful and well-organised, but concerns spiked over potential violence around results as the opposition alleged poll fraud.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sierra Leone votes today

Can tech revolutionize African elections? (CNN)
by Jonathan Bhalla at Africa Research Institute
An often overlooked aspect of the current electoral cycle in Sierra Leone is the use of biometric technology to capture thumb prints and facial features in the registration of voters.

"Credible elections start with credible voter registration," remarked Christiana Thorpe, chief commissioner of Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission, during a presentation at Africa Research Institute in London in July 2011. For Thorpe, a bloated or inaccurate voter register always has a negative effect on the electoral process.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Biometrics enable micro-lending in Namibia

Namibia: Another Step Forward for Access to Banking (All Africa)
In terms of the agreement, PostFin will use the DBN credit line to finance small businesses, housing and education.

The micro-lending agreement builds on the existing relationship between NamPost and DBN. NamPost previously used DBN finance to implement electronic banking with biometric account management, which has substantially improved access to banking in Namibia, particularly in smaller centres and hard to access areas.
Read on and you'll also learn that in Namibia, like in other countries, the postal service is getting in on the ID business.

Click the 'Postal Service' label below for more examples.

Sierra Leone votes tomorrow after biometric voter registration

Sierra Leone to vote in litmus test for post-war democracy (Tengri News)

For several reasons biometric voter registration without biometric voter verification is at best a half measure toward preventing electoral fraud. Hopefully it's enough to insure peaceful elections in Sierra Leone.

No biometric verification, no vote

No verification machine, no voting; Afari Gyan declares (Ghana Web)

No biometric machine, no voting – EC, political parties agree (Ghana Business News)

At least the kids can't vote twice - Ghana edition

Image accompanies this article in Ghana's Daily Guide

Minors Captured In Biometric Voter Register A Big Challenge For EC – Dr Afari-Gyan (
He said the biometric verification machine cannot determine who is a minor or a foreigner and that examination of images of those captured during the biometric registration shows that minors were registered all over the country.
This brings up several ID issues.

Since there is no precise physiological indication of age, it is important to register children when they are born.

Some non-trivial proportion of the world's individuals don't actually know how old they are.

What policies were in place during the voter registration process?

It's almost impossible to conceive that the enrollment software didn't in some way note the electoral worker responsible for each enrollment. Is there any correlation between the registrants that seem obviously to be around twelve years old and the worker responsible for the registration?

On the positive side, with a well-functioning biometric voter system at least the kids can't vote twice.

At Least the Kids Can't Vote Twice in ARMM, Philippines
Biometrics "Fix" Identity

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Disney biometrics: Going back to Cali? I don't think so.

Disney [Kinda] Puts Its Foot Down on Ticket Renting (COASTER-net)
Disney began cracking down when they realized that the businesses were offering these multi-day discounts for less than $100 a day when the going rate for both parks is $125 for a single-day ticket.
Walt Disney parks in Florida and other parks such as SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks use a biometric finger scanning system for their multi-day pass system. However, according to Disney in California a similar system will not be used at the Disneyland Resort theme parks.

OK, I'll save you the Google search. Here it is...

SRA keeps DOJ biometrics management project

SRA to help DOJ with biometric database system (Washington Technology)
The contract was awarded under the Information Technology Support Services 4 procurement vehicle. SRA will continue managing, operating and maintaining the agency’s Joint Biometric Data Exchange Hosting Environment infrastructure.

Services include system operations, maintenance and help desk support, system development, government furnished equipment inventory/distribution management and system security.

Strengthening the 'chain of custody' with biometrics

Biometric Access Control Systems Help to Improve Evidence Management (Press Release)

How many times have Law and Order, NCIS, Dexter or some other crime drama aired episodes where evidence has “gone missing”? Most likely, it’s been too many times to count. Watching these shows and seeing racks of cardboard boxes in an unmonitored storage room leaves the average citizen wondering; is that how things are handled at my police station? The answer is, not anymore and things are improving all the time.

Property and evidence control and tracking causes enormous concerns in law enforcement. The process for tracking evidence has typically consisted of manually filling out property forms, which may lead to errors and inconsistent chain of custody records. 

This stainless steel, wall-mounted, computerized kiosk houses a biometric ID reader for access verification and touch screen user navigation. LEID Products chose Advanced Kiosks to build their BACS Systems because of the durability, ruggedness and quality of its state-of-the–art kiosks which meets the high standards required for BACS Systems.

This is a great application of biometrics to law a enforcement identity management challenge.

Google and Facebook have better Face Rec than the Police

Revelations In Online Facial Recognition (Police Oracle)
Ground-breaking biometric research has shown that the freely available facial recognition search engines used by social networking sites such as Facebook and Picasa are as accurate as some specialist biometric systems sold to government agencies, such as police forces.
First, the above linked article is extremely interesting and I suggest you read the whole thing. I just don't share the author's surprise at the research results.

Here's why:

Facebook and Google (Picasa) have way more money than police departments and they can use facial recognition to make more money still.

Facebook and Google grasped the return on investment facial recognition offers them much earlier than Police departments. That isn't surprising either.

Unlike police, Facebook and Google face almost no labor cost in collecting facial recognition information. Their users do all the work for them leaving the companies to concentrate on processing the information. Police labor is expensive.

Also unlike police, Facebook and Google can (and do) change their terms of service to accommodate what they want to do. Police don't get to write, much less change, their terms of service (the law) regarding how and what information they collect and how it can be used.

Facebook and Google face technology isn't free. In fact, having acquired, Facebook has sent notice to customers that in the near future they will have to look elsewhere for facial recognition help.

Google and Facebook are for profit tech companies. Police departments aren't.

I suspect that Facebook (maybe Google, too) is applying much stronger data tools in its facial recognition efforts — tools that police can't use. To understand why it is important to realize that a simple facial recognition search of all the photos on the Facebook or Google servers would be pretty close to useless. The 'book simply has far too many faces. Based upon the image quality and the high number of photos, there would be far too many false positives resulting from a "brute force" matching effort. I'll make an educated guess that the reason Facebook gets the facial recognition results that it does is that it uses its (highly proprietary) knowledge of its users to limit the face rec search only to people that Facebook already believes have a significant likelihood of actually knowing each other. If my assumptions hold, police would have to have a Facebook-like awareness of the population in order to achieve Facebook-like facial recognition results.

Given the above, it would be astounding/shocking/alarming (substitute your own descriptor) if Google and Facebook weren't better at facial recognition than are police departments.

Ghana: The big day is three weeks away

Legislative and Presidential elections in Ghana are just 3 weeks from tomorrow: December 7, 2102.

In keeping with its leadership role in West Africa, Ghana is an early adopter of biometric technologies for managing national elections. At least a couple of other West African countries (Sierra Leone this Saturday, and Cameroon) have committed to biometric elections in the near future and it's fair to say all other countries in the region are taking a keen interest in how things go in Ghana.

People in Ghana are acutely aware that the eyes of West Africa and the world are on them. Beyond that, they want free, fair, orderly and well-managed elections. With three weeks to go, some anxiety is beginning to show and there seems to have been a spike in media coverage of the electoral process.

Here's a run-down of some of what the Ghanaian media is saying.

Dousing The EC Blues (Daily Guide)
The Electoral Commission (EC) does not appear ready with key components of the forthcoming polls, raising the adrenaline level of most Ghanaians, especially as we near the December 7 election date. News to that effect made disturbing headlines in the media yesterday when the non-availability of the biometric register for the political parties’ scrutiny before the polling day was put out. Many Ghanaians who read the stories could not help wondering whether the district assembly elections were going to be re-enacted on December 7.
The Electoral commission maintains that it has integrated the new technology so as to support Ghana's voting system and that they are on course.

EC Is Prepared For Proxy Voting In December Polls - Afari Gyan

Voters Register Out On Monday (Peace FM Online)
“We are confident that our machines would work perfectly and we would have a smooth voting process,” he [ed: Dr. Kwadwo Afari Djan, chairman of the Electoral Commission] said.
There's also some attention paid to the issue of non-EC observation of the election.

Leave polling stations after voting - EC warns voters (Ghana Web)
The Electoral Commission (EC) has directed all voters to leave the polling stations immediately after casting their vote on Election Day.

The directive is in contrast to an order by the executives of some political parties in the Eastern Region who keep asking their followers and supporters at their rallies not to leave the polling stations after casting their vote, so that they will help check illegal acts that will be perpetrated by their opponents.
Editorial - Media ruled out of early voting? (Ghana Web)
It is a bizarre state of affair for the Nations electoral governing body to snub the significant role played by the media to ensure a peaceful and a transparent electoral process across the country by blatantly ruling out its participation in the early voting process.

Considering the anxiety and pockets of violence which characterized the Biometric voter registration exercise in parts of the country months ago, the Electoral commission must be self informed of possible but sizeable tension and aggression on December 7.
That's where things stand three weeks before election day.

The Ghanaian elections are providing a useful case study for students of complex, large-scale biometric ID management deployments. The issues are technical, cultural, and managerial in nature. Those in the biometrics industry and managers in complex ID environments can learn a lot from what's happening in Ghana.

Africa: Other biometric elections

KENYA: IEBC Briefs Kibaki on Poll Preparedness (All Africa).
Training electoral workers and informing the public is a HUGE part of the challenge of implementing biometric elections. It's also one of the most expensive parts ‵ more expensive than the technology, I'd say, even in places with low labor costs.

CAMEROON: Keeping the veil on women’s electoral participation (News Day)
"Allowing women to get national identity cards could also be potentially upsetting for men who want absolute control over their wives." We've made the point here over and over that a legitimate ID is a prerequisite to full participation in the modern world. It seems our point of view is widely shared.

SIERRA LEONE: 2012 Election: A test democracy (In Depth Africa)
The election will be the first since the end of the 11-year war in 2002 to be conducted entirely by the Sierra Leone government. The country’s 2.6 million voters were registered for the first time on a biometric system to prevent multiple voting and avoid electoral fraud. The Guardian (UK) also has a useful article on the stakes in Saturday's Sierra Leone election.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What about the United States?

So, having put Africa under the microscope (above, here & here) how is the United States doing?

America’s election process an international embarrassment (CNN)
America has one of the world’s most antique, politicized and dysfunctional procedures for its elections. A crazy quilt patchwork of state and local laws with partisan officials making key decisions and ancient technology that often breaks down. There are no national standards. American voters in more than a dozen states, for example, don’t need ID. But even India, with a GDP just 12 percent that of ours, is implementing a national biometric database for 1.2 billion voters. The nascent democracy in Iraq famously dipped voters’ fingers in purple to ensure they didn't vote again. Why are we so behind the curve?

A thorough biometric system gets around the fake voter ID card problem

Fake Voters’ ID Cards In T’di? (Daily Guide)
Database de-duplication and election day biometric voter verification are crucial.

Hospital Patient ID

St. Peter’s Hospital moves to biometric patient ID (Independent Record - Helena, MT)
St. Peter’s Hospital has begun using a biometric identification system it says will eliminate the need for patients to show identification with each visit while improving the certainty that medical providers will access the medical records of the correct patient.
See (listen) also this interview: Biometric Patient ID Technology with M2SYS President, Michael Trader (HIT Consultant)

Lots of good discussion of the ROI available to health care providers through biometric patient ID.

Philippines: Consolidating biometric elections will have to wait until 2016

8M Voters Without Biometric Listing Can Vote – Senate Body (Manila Bulletin)
These voters could still cast their votes in 2013 because no consolidated bill has not been passed by the two chambers – Senate and the House of Representatives – of Congress and any enactment of a law on this biometrics issue would cover the 2016 elections, Pimentel said.
Still, for Philippine nationals supportive of more rigorous voter registration, 2013 might not be as bad as it sounds at first. According to the Bulletin, the 8 million records in question will be 'deactivated' from the voter rolls and re-activated if individuals apply for validation.

This article seems to be saying that there will be no recourse for those who haven't registered using the biometric system.

Comelec chief clarifies stand on proposed biometrics system (Balita)
"I have always answered that I prefer it to take effect in 2016 as it would give the voters time to validate and that the 2013 polls is too close," Brillantes said in his official Twitter account.

"If its effectivity will be in 2013, many voters with no biometrics may be disenfranchised since we can no longer reopen revalidation. My view, therefore, is consistent with that of Senators [Alan Peter] Cayetano and [Koko] Pimentel — only that my statements were unfortunately taken out of context," he added.

Face Recognition is going mainstream

The LA Times: Catching up to the fact that, as far as facial recognition goes, it isn't 2001 anymore.

Trusted Travelers

TSA Pre Check - Is It Working?Yes, Pre Check works: for very few people so far at about 4 percent of all US airports. (

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Empowerment though identity

Pakistan’s “Pocket of Productivity”: Empowerment Through Identification (Center for Global Development)
Understanding how and why institutions like NADRA and REINIC succeed and gain trust could help inform the growing number of high-tech national identification projects in poorer countries.

A pocket here, a pocket there, and pretty soon you’re talking real development!
Read the whole thing.

France severely limits biometrics for time-and-attendance

No biometrics to control working hours (CNIL)
October 23, 2012
In recent years, the control techniques employed in their workplaces have experienced unprecedented growth, including through the use of biometric devices. Therefore, the CNIL wished to obtain the opinion of trade unions and employers, the General Directorate of Labour as well as some professionals, the use of this technology. The issue of biometrics as a tool for management and control of attendance zones has been analyzed under the Data Protection Act and in accordance with the Labour Code.
The Commission has always been vigilant about biometrics. They have the peculiarity of being unique and permanent, because they identify an individual from its physical, biological or behavioral (eg fingerprint, hand contour). They are not assigned by a third party or by the person chosen. They are produced by the body itself and the means permanently thereby allowing the "tracing" of individuals and their identification.

The sensitive nature of these data that explains the Data Protection Act provides a specific control of the CNIL essentially based on the proportionality of the device in relation to the objective sought, such as time management.

On 27 April 2006, the Commission adopted a single authorization for the implementation of biometric recognition based on the contour of the hand with the purpose of access control and time management and restoration of the site work (AU-007).

Following more than a dozen hearings, consensus is clearly expressed to consider the disproportionate use of biometrics for control schedules.

Therefore, the Commission has decided to modify the TO-007 in that it allowed the use of the hand contour for time management. now, no single authorization are used to control the schedules of employees by a biometric device.

Transitional measures
Organizations that already use this device to control schedules and staff who have made ​​a commitment to comply before the publication of this new debate will continue to use it for a period of five years. After this time, they will stop using the biometric feature, which will not involve systematically changing hardware. Organizations can indeed set the system to inhibit the function and use biometric instead, codes, cards and / or badges without biometrics. The CNIL has informed individually organizations having previously sent a commitment to comply with the AU-007.

However, devices contour of the hand can still be used to control access to the premises or manage the restoration of the workplace. These treatments will continue to be a commitment to comply with the AT-007
The fact install a biometric device for purposes other than those covered by the AU-007 will give rise to requests for specific permission, which will be considered on a case by case basis by the Commission. [ed. Translation by Google; Emphasis in original]
See also: No more single authorization of the CNIL can now monitor employee schedules by a biometric hand recognition.

It seems that France has placed some limits on biometrics for time-and-attendance, preventing new adoption   and requiring a five-year phaseout for those who are currently using the technology.

CNIL explicitly okays biometrics for physical access control.

No example of actual "tracing" or violation of privacy is mentioned in the statement.

It appears the CNIL has preserved by law a certain degree inefficiency in the French labor market — inefficiency that biometric technology can help reduce. So far, this is the only case of its kind that I'm aware of.

Oh well, vive la différence.


Face Recognition Slot Machines

Facial-recognition software to keep problem gamblers away (stuff)
The new technology, created by a Hamilton company, is inspired by airport customs SmartGate technology.

On the surface they seem like ordinary pokie machines, but inside, a hidden camera takes a photo of the player and identifies whether they are a problem gambler. “The machine will take maybe one or two seconds to check their face and life goes on as normal,” says Paul Andrew of company Gaming Inc. “However, for someone who is in the database, the system will recognise them and instantly disable the machine.” The $15 million system works from photos, which at present are provided by problem gamblers themselves as a way to curb their gaming addiction.
Last year Australia wrapped itself around the axle on this issue (see also this). It's nice to see their neighbors across the Tasman Sea going in a different direction.

I hope the implementation goes well.

Face-Rec helps gambling addicts, reduces fraud

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ghana: Catholic Bishops commend efforts on voter registration including biometrics

Catholic Bishops Raise Alarm Over Corruption (Peace FM Online)
After the declaration of results the bishops urged all Ghanaians “to continue in the spirit of togetherness to join forces to build Mother Ghana.”

They commended the Chairman of the EC and his team for, as they stated, “their steadfastness and the preparations they have made for the upcoming elections. They have surmounted formidable challenges to make the biometric registration and voting a reality.”
This paragraph appears about half way through a longer article about what Catholic bishops in Ghana have to say about corruption.