Friday, March 30, 2012

Philippines: Plan to use biometrics to stop fraud

Village leaders deprive allowances to beneficiaries of a poverty alleviation programme (Gulf News)
The social welfare department has proposed to use biometrics in areas where corruption has affected the beneficiaries of the government's poverty alleviation scheme that provides health and school allowances to poor school children, a senior official said.


Is there anything that can't be improved by slapping a fingerprint reader on it?

Well, maybe some things can't be improved with biometrics, but I'm constantly amazed at how many things can be.

Cherlapally Prison to get biometric telephones
Now, inmates of Cherlapally Central Prison can officially talk on telephone to their dear ones as home minister P Sabita Indra Reddy will inaugurate six biometric telephones on the prison premises on Thursday. The long-awaited phones will curb their illegal usage in the prison and help nearly 2,000 inmates get connected to their family members, lawyers and doctors.

CN Gopinatha Reddy, DGP (Prisons), who is going to retire from service on March 31, said the six telephones were installed in six partitioned cabins by Vodafone.

Privacy, Biometrics, Standardized Tests and the Licensed Professions

Biometrics—and the Curious Relevance of Occupational Licensing (Cato Institute)
Yesterday, I testified (by remote communications) in the Alaska House of Representatives’ Health and Social Services Committee, which is considering a bill to heavily regulate the collection and use of biometrics. The bill is inspired by a man who was denied entry into the CPA exam when he refused to have his fingerprints scanned for that purpose. You can read more about his campaign at the site.
Read the whole thing. It's short and to the point, and I'd have to lift most of the article to give more of its flavor. It brings together several issues we frequently discuss here (privacy, biometrics, test-taking, regulation, etc.) together with one we don't — requiring a license to practice too many professions.

See also:
Privacy commissioner seeks to block finger-printing of Canadian med-school applicants

h/t @M2SYS

Fingerprint Systems for School Cafeterias

It has been a while since we mentioned school cafeteria fingerprint biometrics. This article on a deployment in Newark, New Jersey covers the privacy, cost and scalability of the system.

School officials say lunch lines could move faster with new software (Newark Advocate)

More on Biometrics in Schools

Dollar Stores: When Pennies Matter Retail Adopts Biometric Time and Attendance

Buried in this rather fascinating article on Canadian retailer, Dollarama, is an interesting note on time and attendance. The dollar store model requires firms to operate at the peak of efficiency. That Dollarama uses biometric time and attendance it a pretty good indication that it helps them make money. The whole article is worth reading. The biometric bit is quoted below.

How Dollarama turns pocket change into billions (Globe and Mail)
Most stores are about 10,000 square feet, with annual sales of about $2.3 million. Dollarama has more than 14,000 employees, usually 20 per store, about a third of them part-time. The Dollarama formula relies on paying as little as possible on this front too. Almost all jobs pay the provincial minimum wage—about $8.75. Given its chosen labour niche, this year the company feels compelled to introduce biometric scanners made by Massachusetts-based Kronos Inc. to monitor employee attendance. Unlike a punch clock, these devices can’t be gamed by sympathetic colleagues.

Cameroon: Religious Leaders for Biometric Voter Registration

Cameroon: Muslims and Christians Support Electoral Reform (All Africa)
Religious leaders in Cameroon usually don't get involved in electoral politics. But in early March, a group of Muslim and Christian leaders went to see the president of the elections governing body, saying they were fed up with previous balloting that included vote-buying, multiple voting and outright manipulation of vote totals.
The religious leaders proposed the introduction of biometric registration of voters, the use of a single ballot paper for presidential elections, the introduction of independent candidates, the reduction of the voting age from 20 years to 18 years, and the recompilation of voter registers.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Texas Law Enforcement & Biometrics

Texas Department of Public Safety Partners with NEC to Launch New Criminal Identification Network (TMCnet)
"Designed to search millions of subjects and provide real time positive identification, mobile identification will give law enforcement agencies remote access to the fingerprint collection at TxDPS and will nicely complement the existing access DPS provides to the FBI's Repository of Individuals of Special Concern (RISC)," said Mike Lesko, Deputy Assistant Director of the Law Enforcement Support Division at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Lesko continued, "Based on national standards and optimized for speed and accuracy, mobile identification can help increase the efficiency of Texas law enforcement by allowing officers to positively identify suspects via fingerprints without having to transport the suspect to a law enforcement station. The efficiency realized by this too can help increase public safety as well as officer safety by providing officers with positive suspect identification and allowing them to act appropriately on that knowledge."

h/t @Allevate

Mystery Patients Continue to Point at Biometric Patient Identification Systems as Solution

Thoughts on biometric patient identification systems at the M2SYS blog
...[A] badly battered, dazed and confused man picked up by the police and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital without any identification on him or means to identify himself other than giving his name. Subsequently, Grady published his photo asking the public for their help to identify the patient, hoping someone may recognize him.
More at the link.

See also: Biometrics for people who can't identify themselves

North Carolina Police Bust ID Thieves Using Facial Recognition

Statesville duo charged with identity theft (WBTV)

As discussed earlier, here's a good example of how states are tightening up their ID processes.

States are making progress in improving ID

Very interesting article about the state of ID in the United States...

Battle to Make REAL ID a Reality (Opposing Views)
I testified a few days ago at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on REAL ID implementation. I expected to have harsh things to say about the way REAL ID has been treated by the National Governors Association and the Obama administration. And there was certainly plenty to criticize. But what surprised me after a few years away from the issue was not how badly the secure ID problem had been neglected. It was how much progress has been made, almost reluctantly, by all parties. Much more secure identification is now within reach, though politics may still delay the final steps.

New Travel Application for Biometrics

Diehl Aerosystems is working on biometric recognition technology to monitor passenger movements onboard aircraft (Flightglobal)
Cameras installed in the aircraft's entry area will be able to distinguish between passengers and staff, thus providing an accurate number for who is on the aircraft when the doors close. Conventional technology such as an infrared light ray and photo cell would be unable to differentiate the movement of a person from, for example, a service trolley.

Kammer says it would be possible to use the recognition technology for additional purposes such as directing passengers to their allocated seats. This would require, however, combining the software with a database holding the respective passenger records, for example, from check-in or previous flights.
This application could also be really helpful for making sure people don't sleep through their flight connections. International flights, especially ones transecting the Pacific Ocean can be really tricky. If you sleep through your connection, you could find yourself on a twelve hour flight to somewhere you don't have a visa to visit. I've seen it happen.

Ghana Voter Enrollment Challenges

Blame biometric challenges on climate and untrained personnel – Dr. Gedel (Modern Ghana)
He noted that because the kit operators were not “well trained” there are some lapses in their work.

According to him, he has observed that some kit operators keep piling pressure on the printers used for the registration exercise thus leading to their malfunctioning.

“Some of them (kit operators) instead of issuing one command for printing, some of them go to issue two, three, four and eventually the printer gets locked up because of too much information sent” Dr. Gedel said on Multi TV's political talk show, Majority Caucus.

He also raised concerns about the citing of some of the registration centers in the open which he said can affect the lifespan of the equipment.
Biometrics are about people; they can help managers accomplish goals but they can't run an organization all by themselves.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

E-Lected: Electronic Voting in Modern Democracies

Another blog that may interest readers is E-Lected. While e-voting is not synonymous with biometric voter applications, there can be a lot of overlap.

Costs of a Single Citizen View

Liliendahl on Data Quality is a blog "about data quality and master data management." Readers with interest in the subjects we cover here may also find Mr. Sørensen's site of interest, as well.

His recent post, inspired by India's UID Project, got me thinking.
Back in the late 60’s the United States was able to put a man on the moon.

It was at the same time that the Scandinavian countries implemented their “single citizen view”.

Besides digitalizing the national identification number Sweden also, in 1967, managed to change from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right side. I’m not sure if Sweden could afford turning to the right side today not to say the United Kingdom doing the same.
It certainly does seem (regarding biometrics, anyway) that the appetite for huge projects is greater in the developing world than among the developed economies. India, Nigeria and Ghana come to mind as examples of countries attempting large-scale ID deployments.

Admittedly, developed countries have already developed ID management institutions that, while they were very costly to develop, work quite well today. See: Biometric Identity Management, an Information Age Revolution. But Mr. Sørensen's piece makes you wonder if there isn't more to it than that.

The Netherlands: Self-Serve Biometric Passport Checks

Schiphol starts tests of do-it-yourself biometric passport checks (Dutch News)

Russia, EU Cannot Agree on Visa Requirements for Business Passports

Russia’s request for lifting the visa requirement for people with business passports remains an unsolved problem on its way to the facilitation of the visa regime between Russia and the EU, writes Russian Kommersant daily. (Focus)

Zimbabwe: New Marriage Certificate Unveiled

The requirement is meant to weed out bogus marriage officers (All Africa)
The Government last month introduced measures to flush out foreigners and Zimbabweans who have been abusing the country's marriage laws.

Such measures included computerised and serialised marriage certificates to curb multiple marriages, marriages of convenience and immigration fraud.

Foreigners, mostly those from Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, enter into marriages of convenience and marry more than one wife using different names to secure Zimbabwean citizenship or residence permits.

In most marriages of convenience, women are lured with money or property.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fingerprint Reader Behind the Handset's Screen?

Sony files patent envisioning "see-through" mobile handset screens (BBC)
It looks like Sony envisions a mobile handset screen that fingerprint sensors and cameras can "see" through.

I have no idea what the patent and trademark office will make of the application, but the development of such a display would be really cool (at the right price).

Hyping Facial Recognition

Sometimes I let these go. It can be a time consuming process to untangle assumptions that lead to articles like the one below. But the article in question enjoyed a brief run on the Drudge Report over the weekend, so enough people saw it so as to make a clarification of the issues involved worth the effort.

Big Brother just got scarier: Japanese CCTV camera can scan 36 million faces per second - and recognise anyone who has walked into its gaze (UK Daily Mail)

One commenter asks "...why on earth would a camera need to scan 36 million people per second??? Would you have 36 million people somehow bunch up and face this magical camera?" ...which pretty thoroughly debunks the headline. The camera isn't really scanning anything, it's just a camera. It's software that is handling the video and images cropped from it. The real news here is (stop the presses): Applying a "face finder" to CCTV footage in real time will make later facial recognition faster.

A face finder is a program that identifies a certain group of digital pixels as a human face.

In a typical facial recognition transaction, the face finder then passes that cropped image to a facial recognition algorithm where it is turned into a template. The template is then compared to all the templates in the database. The database images are then ranked in order of the likelihood of a match and the facial recognition application presents the user with some number of results. Organizational policy takes over from there.

So, technically two challenges must be met: You have to find faces; You have to match faces. Two hard numbers in the article point to these two challenges: 40x40 pixels; and 36 million faces per second. 40x40 refers to the minimum size the face finder can handle; 36 million/second refers to the speed of the matching algorithm. The 40x40 number is pretty firm. The 36 million number is a little different. 36 million records per second could mean 3.6 million records in 0.1 seconds. It could mean 360,000 records in 0.01 seconds, etc.

Assuming the facial recognition matching algorithm can handle 36 million records, a claim which is not explicitly made, what about the performance of a facial recognition system with a database of 36 million 40x40 pixel photos? Is 1600 pixels enough to distinguish among 36 million people? [Update: With only 1600 pixels to work with and 36 million people to identify, there's a high likelihood that you you will run out of pixel combinations before you can account for all the people.]

Photo & SecurLinx
Here' a 40x40 gray-scale* photo of Penelope Cruz.

Why 40x40? The installed base of CCTV cameras is poorly suited to facial recognition. Facial recognition is what it says: the recognition of faces. It's not top-of-the-head recognition; it's not profile recognition; it's not back-of-the-head recognition. In general, CCTV cameras have been installed to observe and/or record what people are doing, not who they are. They have been deployed to answer the question, "what's going on?"

That's why the 40x40 pixel specification is important. CCTV cameras typically use such a wide angle that a person's face may only occupy a very small slice of the camera's field of vision, and when you zoom in on the face, you get a picture similar to the one above, in the best of cases. In more ordinary circumstances, few faces suitable for face recognition are captured at all.

Unfortunately, this is the way these things go. A company makes technical claims based upon laboratory findings. Those claims are exported via the media into the real world with the assumption that they will work tomorrow (or next tax year) in the chaotic real world, at least as well as (or better than) they worked in the lab.

This isn't really good for the industry, customers or the public at large, though. If believed, it results in customers with too-high expectations, companies trying to reset expectations and a public with with unrealistic hopes and fears of what these systems are capable of.

It is good to get people thinking about the kind of future they would like to build for themselves but for people to do that effectively, they must be presented with an accurate picture of the world in which they currently live. They aren't getting that from articles like this.

*Post for another day: Why use gray-scale images for facial recognition?

Biometrics and Firewalls

Defense researcher recommends biometric and intrusion detection techniques (ITNews)
“PIN and password indicates what you know and what you possess,” he said. “They do not tell you who you are and what you are. Who is presenting the tokens? That’s the fundamental problem.”

Hu suggested that biometrics such as fingerprint, face and iris patterns could improve identity detection, especially when used in conjunction with smartcards.

Research groups at ADFA were developing “fuzzy vaults” and “fuzzy extractors” to extract biometric information for use in encryption, he said.

Although attackers have fooled biometric scanners with photos of fingerprint, face or iris patterns in the past, Hu said “multi-modal biometrics” improved reliability by requiring multiple biometric identifiers.

“Liveliness detection” techniques could also determine if patterns belonged to a living person by using two LEDs with peak emissions at 530 and 640nm to detect certain characteristics of live fingers, he said.

Security At Visa's Top Secret Data Center

Prisons are easier to enter than Visa's top-secret Operations Center (WLTX - Columbia, SC)
"Physical security is the foundation where you start," says John Thielens, chief security officer of Axway, a business-software vendor. "If you can afford it, build a data center. The big guys build their own."
Once inside, visitors encounter a "mantrap" portal, which requires a badge and biometric image of the right index finger to gain access to the data center. The digital image is necessary to pass through a phalanx of shatter-resistant glass doors.
Security is provided in layers. This article illustrates it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Not Just a Number

Mark Eardley starts with The Prisoner and Jefferson Airplane and concludes with the paragraphs quoted below. The entire piece is must-read material.

There are new horizons for identity and access management (ITWeb - South Africa)
Far from seeing the use of my biometric self as some Orwellian, Big Brother intrusion into the sanctity of my identity – which most people have anyway handed over to a more or less gimmicky variation on the dumber-than-dumb concept of a passcode – I consider it to be an accurate, respectful recognition of who I am and the access privileges and trust that I have earned.

As to those naysayers who seek to undermine the integrity and competency of modern biometrics, I suggest they reflect a little more deeply on the glaringly absurd inadequacies of cards, PINs and passwords – all of which are routinely forgotten, lost, shared and stolen.

Instead of regurgitating a lot of heavily-chewed myths about why biometrics are so flawed, isn't it perhaps time to talk to some of the local vendors that are running biometric-based systems that safely, securely and accurately control physical access for millions, yes millions, of people at thousands of South African companies?

Because these local biometric vendors have created in SA one of the world's largest and most diverse markets for a form of authentication that recognises people for what they are – people.
In the final analysis, identity management is about people. We say this all the time around here because we believe that it can't be said often enough. Recognizing this truth keeps us focused on the fact that if the systems we design don't work for the people who have to use them, they can't help organizations achieve their goals. If they don't work for everyone, they don't work.

'Tis the Season for Biometrics Market Analysis

Biometric Market Forecast to 2014 (RNCOS)
According to a recent report by RNCOS, the corporate security and identity theft are also fueling growth in the global biometric market, which is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of around 21% during 2012-2014.
Frost & Sullivan publicized their report on Wednesday

ABI Research via The market for smart cards, secure ICs, inlays, (biometric) data capture, card personalization, printing and issuance in government, healthcare, and citizen ID will reach a cumulative value of $72 billion by 2016.

Research & Markets: Biometric Market Forecast to 2014 (Research & Markets)
According to “Biometric Market Forecast to 2014”, the biometric technologies are being widely accepted and adopted in various civil and commercial applications, including Point of Sale, ATMs, and border security (passports and customer ID). Companies are coming up with automated biometric software or systems which help reduce costs and offer enhanced intelligence with automated features.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Iris ≠ Retina

Unlike yesterday's treatment in Voice Recognition ≠ Speech Recognition, the terms, "iris" and "retina" are in no way up for grabs.

The iris (left), which gives people "eye color," controls how much light enters the eyeball. The retina (right) is the structure laying along the inside, back surface of the eyeball that translates light into nervous impulses for the optic nerve to send to the brain.

In a camera analogy, the iris would be, well, the iris, since cameras have them, too. The retina would be the film, or in an even better digital analogy, the charge-coupled device (CCD) that translates light into ones and zeros for computer chips.

Both iris and retina are used as biometric modalities in identity management applications.

Iris biometrics match the iris's unique surface features (similar to fingerprints). Retina biometrics use eye's vascular network for matching.

Retinas have been in use as a biometric identifiers for far longer than iris (1984 vs 1995), but using the iris is far more common today. This is because using the iris makes for cheaper and easier identifications.

For more on the subject, I recommend this [ed: inactive link removed]. It was written in 2006. Both technologies will have improved since then, but iris technologies have improved faster.

New EU Agency to Manage State-run Biometric Databases

Agency headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia (
A new European Union agency – tasked with managing large-scale information technology systems that hold millions of records related to migration and security, including biometric data – will be inaugurated by EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Estonia tomorrow.
Databases include:
♦ Schengen area travel documents
♦ Visa applications
♦ Asylum cases

h/t @silicontrust
Also check out the The Silicon Trust blog.

Worlds Oldest Biometrically Enrolled Pensioner?

Lagos verifies 112-year-old pensioner, others (Punch)
She said a new system, biometric solutions, that was introduced in the state, had led to the decentralisation of the verification exercise.

She said, “Before, verification was done at just one centre. Now, pensioners are verified at the nearest council to their residence. The government is determined to improve the well being of pensioners.

“The decentralisation has reduced stress for our pensioners. Lagos State Government does not owe any pensioner.”
Reducing losses and adding convenience. In technical circles, we call that a twofer.

Biometrics Help Prevent Stealing from the Poorest of the Poor

When ration cards turn smart (The Hindu)
Madi Eswari, 50, of Kolanara block in Rayagada is managing at last to keep hunger at bay. She is being helped by technology, or to be precise bar codes, to put an end to the rampant pilferage that marks the public distribution system (PDS) in this tribal district in Odisha where some of the poorest in the country live.

Earlier, despite having a ration card entitling her to subsidised rice at Rs 2 a kilo through the PDS, Eswari would be forced to buy rice in the open market at five times this price because local fair price shop claimed that stocks of subsidised rice had not come in. “Every time I went there, the shopkeeper would tell me to come back the next day. Sometimes I would find that someone else had taken my quota of foodgrains, and I didn't know what to do about it. With this new ration card at least I get what is my due at the subsidised price,” she says.

The implementation of the biometric ration card system that is helping to ease Eswari's life is an initiative of the Odisha state government in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme.
The entirety of the article is an excellent study of how the poor are exploited, why it's hard to help, and how biometrics are being used to try to change that.

Elsewhere in India...
Addressing the "Last Mile" problem: State plans subsidy for UID-linked micro-ATMs (DNA India)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Biometrics market set to grow to "$14.685 billion" by 2019

Frost & Sullivan has carried out a new assessment of the global biometrics market (info4 Security)
Frost & Sullivan has carried out a new assessment of the global biometrics market that predicts 2010 revenues of $4.49 billion will increase to $14.685 billion by 2019.

Universal adoption of biometric passports will be the driving force in this growth as so-called eGates are implemented at borders around the world.

Portable devices used by the police and the military will also become increasingly common in the fight against crime and terrorism, according to the report.

Frost & Sullivan also suggests that biometrics will be almost universally adopted in the identification of citizens through IDs, driver's licenses and healthcards complete with biometric capabilities.

New Research On How Humans Recognize Faces

Never Forget A Face, Or Parts of One (Psych Central)
Prior opinion held that humans recognized the face as a whole, meaning that there is something about the picture created by the entire face – the particular arrangement of a face’s eyes, nose, and mouth and not just these features themselves – that makes it easier for the human brain to make a positive ID.

The new research suggests differently.
The study is published (behind a pay-wall) in Psychological Science. You can purchase it, or read the Abstract here.

Fooling Facial Recognition With Crocheting - Antics Ensue

Howie Woo (boingboing)

The video really is funny and extremely well executed, revealing the young Mr. Woo's artistic talents in the ancient art of crochet and modern video graphics.

But if you're serious about fooling (i.e. remaining undetected by) facial recognition systems, CVDazzle is the way to go.

Pakistan: Tariq Malik Wins 'CIO of the Year' Award for his ID Management Work

National Database and Registration Authority Deputy Chairman Tariq Malik has won the ‘CIO of the Year’ Award from Teradata Inc (Daily Times)
A panel of judges consisting of eminent computer scientists, information technology (IT) experts and technology gurus have selected Malik for the said award for his contribution in transforming NADRA from an identity card issuing authority to a profitable international business organisation. It is rolling out cutting edge biometric technology solutions, which result in good governance.
Congratulations, Tariq.

Nepal Debates Biometric ID for All Citizens

If passed the govt would issue 400‚000 cards in first phase (The Himalayan Times)
...NIDMC also urged Gupta to seek political consensus in Parliament and approve the bill to avoid unnecessary delay in issuing cards. The law minister must give the bill a go-ahead before sending it to the Cabinet.

The government has already earmarked budget for the project to start issuing the multi-purpose bio-metric NID cards to all the citizens from this fiscal"...

Voice Recognition ≠ Speech Recognition

One of the fun, if challenging, things about new technology is that the vocabulary is up for grabs. Here's a contribution on "voice" vs. "speech" recognition. In the technological sense as well as in the neurological sense, voice recognition and speech recognition are not synonyms. A person's ability to recognize a voice helps them answer the question, "Who's talking?" Speech recognition allows them to understand what is being said.

On the technology side:

Voice Recognition is a behavioral biometric modality that is used to distinguish among individuals for identity management purposes.

Speech Recognition is a software set designed to allow users to interact with IT hardware and systems by speaking.

UAE Face Recognition System Boosts Security

50 facial recognition devices are currently in place countrywide (Khaleej Times)
As many as 61,000 people arriving in and departing from the country have undergone a facial recognition scan (FRS) since the system became operational in 2009, according to Captain Jamal Al Houssani, Head of the Technical Affairs Division at the General Secretariat of the Minister of Interior’s office.

“The facial recognition system is a means used to deter and intercept those who had an earlier entry ban so that they could not re-enter the country, and boosts security and stability of the country,” said Capt Al Houssani.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Biometrics & Organizational Management - Complements, not Substitutes

BPOs in Gurgaon still flouting safety rules (Times of India)
Also, the IT-BPO companies, where these drivers provide their services, were to facilitate the preparation of the database. Their fingerprints on a biometric device, photograph and scanned copy of driving licence were to be a part of the database which were to be uploaded on the Nasscom website.

The information was to be shared with the Gurgaon police and all the firms. However, none of the measures have been actually implemented. "Everybody seems to have conveniently forgotten about executing these decisions. The BPO companies should be doing what they are ought to," said a BPO transporter.
At the end, it's always about people.

Biometrics can help managers with identity management challenges, but they cannot manage a business all by themselves.

Flying Voters in the Philippenes

A case of organized voter fraud (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
“We strongly condemn this act by people who allow themselves to be used,” Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said. “I strongly appeal to the President and to Comelec Chair (Sixto) Brillantes to annul the old list of voters starting today and conduct a totally new registration of voters using the biometric system.”

At least 50 of the people hauled to police stations were minors, said Chief Inspector Abubakar Mangelen Jr., head of the provincial police mobile group.
People in developing democracies seem to be picking up on the idea that biometric voter systems can bring the cost of clean elections within their reach.

Tanning Salon Chain Adopts Fingerprint Biometrics for Customers and Staff

Digital Persona Press Release: Zoom Tan (Yahoo!)
Previously, Zoom Tan discovered that many of their members often come directly from the gym without their credit or debit cards, which limited their ability to make purchases at the tanning salon. To better serve their customers, Zoom Tan created ZoomPay, a biometrically-enabled software application that enables customers to keep their card information safely on file and purchase products with the touch of their finger.

"Biometric technology is a unique way to improve customer service," said Scott Bogdan, director of operations at Zoom Tan. "Our members love being able to make purchases without the burden of carrying around cash and credit cards. DigitalPersona's technology was incredibly easy to integrate into our application."

In addition to enabling more purchases by members, biometrics also significantly reduced fraud at Zoom Tan salons. Members were knowingly and unknowingly sharing their membership information with friends and relatives. Now, with fingerprint biometrics, only properly-registered members can sign-in for tanning sessions. In addition, Zoom Tan adopted biometrics for employee time and attendance management. This has enabled employees to accurately get credit for their shifts while preventing them from fraudulently clocking co-workers in and out.
This deployment has it all.

Cleverly adopted fingerprint biometrics can:
♦ Increase the security and privacy of customers
♦ Make it easier for customers to make purchases
♦ Bring rigor to the employer-employee relationship (time-and-attendance)
♦ Bring rigor to the business-customer relationship (membership-sharing)

Add these up for some good ROI.

Further in the PR, DigitalPersona exec. Jim Fulton mentions that by combining biometrics with their own custom and commercial applications retailers can boost revenues in similar ways.

Using our propriety middleware components, SecurLinx does the "combining" part mentioned above, linking biometric hardware to existing IT systems, and building semi-custom applications to deliver bottom-line results to the organization.

Monday, March 19, 2012

India UID and Budget 2012-13

Last week we posted on the status of UID in India's last budget (Economic Survey 2011-12) and looked forward to seeing how the project would fare in the new budget.

Budget 2012 reinforces UIDAI (Economic Times)
"We have made it quite clear that Aadhaar will form the underlying platform for government services," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told ET. Adds Ajai Chowdhary, chairman of HCL Infosystems, a UIDAI vendor: "Aadhaar will become important also for private companies who want to authenticate their employees and customers."
Well, it's difficult to be more clear than that.

The budget website offers more specifics.
Aadhaar (UID) makes a couple of different appearances in the 2012-13 Budget Overview [pdf]...

Governance: Enrolment of 20 crore persons completed under UID mission. Adequate funds to be allocated to complete enrolment of another 40 crore persons.

Subsidies: Endeavour to scale up and roll out Aadhaar enabled payments for various government schemes in atleast 50 districts within next 6 months. h/t @m2sys

Iris Biometrics & Inmate Identity Management

Here's a good case study of the types of considerations that factor in the decision making-process of whether, and what type of biometric solution to adopt.

Yavapai County Sheriff Deploys Iris Scanning Technology (Correctional News)
Iris recognition is arguably the most accurate form of biometrics in use today. One of the reasons is the sheer numbers of unique characteristics that are measurable within the irises far outnumber other biometrics such as in fingerprints. Additionally, the iris is naturally protected by the cornea and its patterns remain stable over a person’s lifetime, which is not the case with other physical data points such as ears, fingers, and face.

The use of iris scanning to meet critical identity authentication needs has steadily increased internationally in the private and public sectors. Applications include banking, building access control, aviation security, health care, schools and border-crossing. Iris scanning is also becoming a valuable tool in law enforcement and corrections.

In the Yavapai County jails, the technology will be used with both the detainee and sentenced populations.

h/t @HodgeBarry

One Sensor for Two Modalities

Simultaneously acquiring fingerprint and finger vein characteristics (Thomas Net News)

Reading two biometrics simultaneously with one sensor will be highly desirable in very rigorous security environments. Multiplying the error rates of the two modalities can take error rates from minuscule to microscopic. Because both readings are taken by the same sensor, only one sensor must be installed and maintained and the user doesn't have any extra hoops to jump through.

For the vast number of finger-based biometric deployments, fingerprint works perfectly well to deliver a high identity management return on investment. If you have reason to fear the rubber finger, it's good to know there's something out there that can help to neutralize the threat.

There seems to be a conflict between the description of a "contactless" sensor and the photo (here), though.

New York Facial Recognition

Facebook Photo Used To Identify Queens Shooting Suspect (Gothamist)
According to various news reports, the sophisticated face-recognition technology ultimately delivered the perp to the cops, but this is overlooking the most important part: this criminal had his pictures posted on Facebook, and the brother of the guy he shot knew where to look for them. [emph. in orig.]
NYPD Unveils CSI-Esque Facial Recognition Unit (Gothamist)
The NYPD is starting to catch up with CSI: they announced yesterday that they have started incorporating a new facial recognition unit into the department, which will use digital technology to match video images of people at crime scenes to mug shots on file. It promises to be their biggest technological advancement since they discovered the Segway.

h/t @Allevate

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Entertainment Application of Facial Recognition Technology

One of the delights of keeping up with biometric technologies is seeing how people use them for purposes that couldn't have been predicted by the people who developed them.

Titanic - the Comic Strip: Clever software can convert any hit film into cartoon by itself (Daily Mail)
Developed at the Hefei University of Technology, in China, the clever tech will first of all analyse a film, identify the characters via facial recognition, and then start taking screen-grabs of the action. Once this is complete, it can shuffle and order the screen-grabs to tell a coherent story through the medium of the comic panel format.

And then finally it can add speech bubbles, and render the finished images in the chosen style, for instance as a cartoon-or as anime.

Global Entry Program Goes Live in Denver on Monday

Faster customs to be offered at DIA for ‘low-risk’ travelers (Denver Business Journal)
Global Entry is a voluntary program in which “low-risk” international travelers who pay $100 and pass a screening and interview process are allowed to bypass the line of international travelers waiting for processing by a customers and border officer, Ruiz said.

“Membership is for five years and it expedites your entry into 24 major airports in the U.S.,” he said.

Travelers are “processed by biometric identification using a designated kiosk” — a process that cuts average wait times by more than 70 percent, according to the agency.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Colorado to Discuss Biometrics Requirement for Prescription Drugs

HB12-1242 is under consideration by the Colorado General Assembly (Security Management)
Before prescribing or dispensing medication, medical providers would be required gather to information including the prescribing doctor’s name, office address, medication instructions, and the name and address of the patient, in addition to their biometric identifier -- a fingerprint or retinal scan. In other industries, facial and vein recognition [5] have also been used for verification.

The patient’s data would be converted into a unique identifier and sent (encrypted) to the pharmacy. Only the receiving pharmacy could decrypt the information. That’s how it should work. But privacy advocates say gathering so much data would provide dangerously detailed information about patients if hackers decided to target the database.
I sincerely doubt retina scans will be involved. If the eye is deemed necessary, iris would seem to make more sense.

Biometric Time and Attendance in the Public Sector

Broadalbin to install time clock (The Leader-Herald - Gloversville, NY)
"Of course, the time clock can only establish the time they are on the job," Winney said. "It can't make anyone work harder once at the job."
Read the whole thing. Smaller localities are rapidly adopting biometric time-and-attendance solutions, and their news outlets frequently do an excellent job of illuminating the issues involved in a concise, no-nonsense, way.

Voice Biometrics: Methods & Challenges

“Wolves” have voices that match many other voice prints (The Register)

Vendor to Pay $500 Million to Avoid Federal Prosecution in CityTime Scandal

We drew attention to this topic in late 2010 in: Big-Time fraud in NYC time-and-attendance initiative then again in T&A in NYC.

Contractor Strikes $500 Million Deal in City Payroll Scandal (New York Times)
A major government contractor agreed on Wednesday to pay a record $500 million to avoid federal prosecution for its role in the scandal-tarred CityTime project, an effort at modernizing New York’s payroll system. The project was plagued by widespread fraud and weak oversight and became a lingering embarrassment for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration.

Under an agreement with federal prosecutors, the contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, will reimburse the city for about 80 percent of the money it spent on the project, whose budget ballooned to nearly $700 million, from $73 million, and was described by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, as “a fraudsters’ field day that lasted seven years.”
There is a great need to bring modern time and attendance techniques to the operations of cities large and small. The potential ROI is huge.

Law Enforcement Information Exchange System Receives Public Safety Award

Innovative Crime and Incident Data System Recognized for Helping in Thousands of Arrests and Case Closures in Mid-Atlantic Region
The award was presented at the 38th Annual Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Awards Luncheon which recognizes the acts of valor and service of our dedicated public safety personnel, according to the chamber. "We are honored to be part of this award ceremony which distinguishes true heroes who faithfully and unselfishly protect our safety," said James M. Myers, vice president and general manager, Civil Systems Division, Northrop Grumman Information Systems sector.

Nigeria Pension Scandal Continues to Unfold

Pension house of corruption (Vanguard)
On the biometric verification, he noted that the Team reduced the over-bloated figures of genuine pensioners to 70,658, with a corresponding reduction of the monthly budget paid to them to N825 million.

According him, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP collaborated with the civil servants to siphon part of the pension funds.

He gave an instance where the taskforce found out how the bank account of the NUP, where the monthly check off dues of the association kept growing from N15 million to over N2 billion due to proceeds from the alleged fraud in the scheme.

He said this extra amount was later transferred to the bank accounts of the fraudulent 32 staffs at the office of the HOS.

The committee expressed shock with the revelation, lamenting that the fraud in the system had denied retired pensioners their entitlements.
Biometrics give the good guys tools to help their country.

UID & India's Economic Survey 2011-12

India Finance Ministry: Economic Survey 2011-12 recognizes UID as important to Human Development.

The following text was taken from the Human Development chapter [pdf] of the Union Budget & Economic Survey 2011-2012. The 2012-13 edition is due to be released tomorrow. It will be interesting to note any changes in the treatment of UID.
Implementation of the Unique Identification (UID) project has progressed and about 13 crore Aadhaar numbers (UID numbers) have already been generated. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has scaled up enrolments and has also established infrastructure capabilities to generate 10 lakh Aadhaar numbers every day. The UIDAI is on the verge of commencing Phase III of the scheme, which apart from enrolling residents and issuing Aadhaar numbers extends to providing updation services, a robust authentication process as a means of enhancing service delivery of various social schemes, and facilitating financial inclusion and development of Aadhaar-enabled applications to leverage Aadhaar.
The UIDAI has commenced interaction with Ministries/Departments for developing applications leveraging the Aadhaar number, Aadhaar-enabled transactions and infrastructure to improve the service delivery of various social-sector schemes.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has notified that Aadhaar shall be treated as a valid proof of identity (PoI) and proof of address (PoA) after confirming identity and address through the Aadhaar authentication procedure.
The Department of Health and Family Welfare has decided to recognize UID numbers (Aadhaar) as Pol and PoA for extending financial assistance to BPL patients who are suffering from major life threatening diseases and receiving medical treatment at any of the super specialty hospitals/ institutes or other government hospitals under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN).
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued necessary instructions for recognition of Aadhaar as PoI/ PoA for evidence of age and address for issuing a driving licence and for registration of vehicles.
The Department of Expenditure has issued instructions for the revision of the format for submission of proposals for approval of the Expenditure Finance Committee wherein the linkage of the beneficiary identification mechanism with the Aadhaar number is to be indicated. The Aadhaar number has been recognized as valid PoI/PoA for obtaining new LPG connections.
The state governments of Sikkim, Tripura, and Andhra Pradesh have also declared the Aadhaar number valid Pol and PoA for their various schemes. Karnataka has also drawn up a plan for implementation of the Aadhaar project and also for the Karnataka Resident Data Hub for integration of the Aadhaar number with various services.
An Aadhaar Payments Bridge has been designed and is being tested on pilot basis for MGNREGA payments in Jharkhand. The Aadhaar Payments Bridge will enable the transfer of funds directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries on the basis of the Aadhaar number. This will considerably simplify the process of disbursement of welfare funds by government departments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Woman Sentenced for Double Voter Registration

Sierra Leone: Woman Gets Two Years for Double Registration (All Africa)
Fatmata Gbla, 60, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment or pay a fine of Le 500,000 for registering twice in the ongoing biometric voter registration.
5,000,000.00 SLL = 1,144.63 USD
Sierra Leone GDP - per capita (PPP): $800 (2011 est.)

Sierra Leone isn't messing around. For countries serious about reducing rampant vote fraud and the corruption it enables, biometrics can certainly help.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Implementing multi-factor authentication

At the end of last month we linked to Alfonso Barreiro's piece on multifactor authentication.

Tofday he follows up with some things to consider in deciding if multifactor authentication is right for your organization.

What to consider...

Facial-animation capture gets more realistic

Avatars are getting a lot more realistic (ITWorld)

The fields of facial capture animation and facial recognition are very closely related and the technologies can be mutually-reinforcing.

The folks at Microsoft have been hard at work on both. In other not-quite-facial-recognition news:
Mirror Displays Animal Heads that Mimic Facial Expressions

Washington: Face Rec, ID & Fees

Lately, A lot of the news about facial recognition audits of state drivers license databases has come out of the state of Washington.

For earlier posts, see:
How DMV Face Rec Can Prevent Identity Theft
Washington: Facial recognition could be applied to all driver's licenses

There's a lot of good facial recognition info. in there.

Your next driver's license may use facial recognition (Yakima Herald)
The fees will go to state agencies, such as the departments of Licensing and Transportation and the State Patrol, but not necessarily to the facial recognition program, said Brad Benfield, Licensing Department spokesman.

The state has already installed facial recognition software using federal funding given to encourage improved security in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Benfield said the system enables the department to identify an applicant who is registered under one or more identities, block the issuance of a new card and refer the case to law enforcement. Common examples of fraudulent use include someone seeking a new license under a different name because his or her real license is suspended, or minors using the information of someone age 21 or older to get a fake license to buy alcohol.
Implementing a facial recognition deduplication routine within the Washington State drivers license database isn't free, but it doesn't explain the big jump in fees, either.

When dealing with government credentialing entities, fees are always an issue.

The Privacy Implications of Facial Recognition Technology

Ralph E. Stone has a good facial recognition piece in today's Salem (Oregon) News.

It hits all the high points: A description of the technology; Use in law enforcement; Abuse both potential (law enforcement) and actual (Facebook); Privacy; The legal privacy framework in Europe; and the FTC's interest in the subject in the United States.

Mr. Stone covers much ground in a short piece that is well worth reading.

Other posts on privacy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Namibia: Banking, ID & the Post Office

More Namibians have access to banking (The Namibian)
The 17 per cent increase in Namibia’s banked population since 2007 came mostly from low-income earners, aged 32 to 39, living in rural areas.

Better financial access was driven largely by innovative, low-cost and safer products and services by NamPost. “NamPost has changed their product and strategy which has significantly driven product uptake: the physical savings book product was terminated and a biometric smartcard aimed at low-income users was introduced,” the survey said. Significant growth in bank branches across the country also improved.
Since ID management is one of the post office's main functions, it was really interesting to see this article about how the Namibian post office NamPost is contributing to the increasing number of Namibians with access to financial services.

See: The Post Office, Identity Assurance & Biometrics from Friday.

Population-Level ID Management

Biometrics offer a leap-frogging opportunities for countries to learn about their own populations. In the same way that the cell phone revolution propelled African countries into a more interconnected world at a fraction of the cost of a land-line network, biometrics offer opportunities for emerging democracies to develop the ID infrastructure that elections depend upon at a lower cost than older democracies had to bear.

Ghana: Census figures must be published now (The Statesman)
The compilation of a new voter register will surely ensure multiple registration is avoided and will lead to a further enhancement of Ghana’s electoral process.

In 2008, the rig-sayers were helped by the admission on the part of the Electoral Commissioner that the voter register was massively bloated. Ghana, with a population of less than 23 million people, said it had a voter population of some 10 million.

Not only does a bloated register give political parties the opportunity to rig elections, they also give rig-sayers the legitimacy to say to their supporters and sympathisers that they have been cheated and that they should stand up and resist – whether the claim is true or false. This is what characterised the 2008 general elections in Ghana

Friday, March 9, 2012

Canada: Facial Analysis Tool Applied to Windsor City Council

Look who's smiling at City Hall (Windsor Star)

I enjoy seeing the playful uses of new technology and the Windsor Star article using facial analysis to have some fun with the city council definitely qualifies.

Photo: Windsor Star uses software to rank of city councilors' happiness.
Marra, who described himself as a “happy-go-lucky kind of guy,” said people who know him would be surprised by’s bleak assessment of his picture.
Read it. It's funny.

Pennsylvania: Facial Recognition Leads to Corruption Bust

Malvern photo center supervisor charged with forging drivers licenses (Main Line Media News)
“This is public corruption at its worst,” said Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan. “We have a state employee abusing his position in order to help and hide criminals.”

According to a criminal complaint filed by state police, the investigation began in August 2011 after an unnamed victim received a duplicate driver’s license with someone else’s photo displayed. PennDOT records showed the driver’s license had been modified by someone in the Malvern licensing center in May 2010.

Investigators then used facial recognition software to identify an additional license that had been modified to show the face of the same imposter. Both counterfeit licenses were obtained from the Malvern center, police said

The Post Office, Identity Assurance & Biometrics

The conception of the postal service as a natural monopoly of paper-shuffling is collapsing across the developed world. This doesn't have to be the end of the post office, though, because paper-shuffling was never where the postal service added the most value; paper-shuffling was the indispensable means to its true ends which are no longer exclusively met using paper.

Mail boxes, mail slots, mail fraud, change of address forms, return receipt signature cards, hold mail requests, postal inspectors, these aren't about paper, they are about ensuring the integrity of private communication and commerce among geographically dispersed entities. Identity assurance is and has always been the crux of making it all work.

The country that saw this most clearly and has best internalized this concept of the post office is Australia and results show that though challenges lie ahead, Australia Post business has stabilized. Letter volumes fell for the fourth year in a row declining by three percent in FY 2011, but the organization as a whole showed a pre-tax profit of $332.3 million. It appears identity assurance services were part of the reason why.

Britain's post office seems to have taken notice. Part of a proposed £1.34bn post office revamp is to be devoted to digital identity assurance services.
The Post Office knows it's in trouble; only 20m of us will visit a branch at least once a week, compared to 28m doing so at the turn of the Millennium. Key to remaining relevant is a plan to become more digitally enabled: thus the strategy announcement is big on the roll-out of biometric data capture equipment to nearly 800 branches nationwide, something it says will allow it to "compete for tenders to deliver assisted application and identity verification services". []
The post offices in the United States also provide more explicit identity assurance services in their role in issuing passports.

It's not the entire solution to modernizing the post office so that it may be preserved, but recognizing that postal services are more than mere paper deliverers and stamp stores is a first step. Their assets are measurable in far greater terms than delivery trucks, airplanes, and real estate holdings, though the real estate holdings are important, massive and will enable post offices to deliver the services upon which their future depends. The real value of postal services in the developed world has been their role as the venerable, reliable identity verification mechanism indispensable to the development and smooth function of the modern economy.

They can continue to be that. There is still a great and growing need.

I forgot about this post from late last year... UK: Post Office wins biometric collection contract

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New UK Police Cars Feature Facial Recognition Application

Vauxhall Ampera for UK's Police (Sun)
There is another camera inside, on the car roof, for facial recognition that is linked to the Police National Database.

The camera takes a picture of back seat "passengers" and within seconds reports on whether they have a criminal record. Amazingly, it can check through eight million records in a second.
I just snipped out the bit about facial recognition. If you're a car fanatic, you'll might want to click through.

Biometrics Lead to the Discovery of Massive Fraud in Nigeria Pensions

Nigeria rocked by pension fraud scandals (All Africa)
Abdulrasheed also told the committee that the revolution introduced in the nation's pensions fund management by former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsanye, had simplified the administration and disbursement of the pension scheme to beneficiaries.

He disclosed that as at December, last year, a total of 49,395 pensioners including those who retired as far back as 1968 who had never been enrolled had now been verified and their biometrics captured, bringing the total number of pensioners on the payroll to 120,733.

"Prior to the introduction of the biometric system, government had been paying 141,792 pensioners up to the tune of about N3.3 billion as regular monthly pension," Abdulrasheed disclosed, saying however that "following the exercise, it was found that 70,657 pensioners were qualified and eligible to draw regular monthly pension out of the 141,790 pensioners who were hitherto on the payroll".

The PRTT boss also disclosed that the government spent N250 million yearly between 2005 and 2011 on pensioners' verification exercise, adding however that "in order to avoid this and cut cost, we devised a system of smart card through which the pensioners could now receive their pay through the ATM".

He further enumerated other achievements of the PRTT to include: "reduction of pension wage bill from N5 billion to N1.6 billion monthly resulting in N3.4 billion savings from June 2010 to December 2011".
Read the whole thing.

Congratulations the brave Nigerians who have demonstrated the courage to go after the corruption that keeps people poor.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Legal Status of Mobile Devices

Police Given Direct Line To Cell Phone Searches (CBS Dallas - Ft. Worth)
...[T]he U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled it is now legal for police to search cell phones without a warrant.
However, Coggins wonders if it opens the door to more extensive searches down the road. “Does that mean officers now have the right to search through your phone, search through your search history, your photographs, your e-mails and the rest, because it could all be wiped clean,” Coggins asked.

Many critics are asking the same question. They call the ruling an invasion of privacy that far outweighs the needs of law enforcement.

Both Defenbaugh and Coggins agree that the case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme court.
Securing mobile devices and the information they both hold and create is perhaps the greatest privacy issue of our time. Biometric applications have a role to play in protecting privacy.

Law Enforcement Facial Recognition

NYPD: This Man Tried To Use Chelsea Murder Victim's ATM (Gothamist)

"Earlier Monday, police questioned a 24-year-old man but released him after interviewing him. Law-enforcement sources told NBC New York that they were led to the man after using facial recognition software on a still photo taken from a surveillance camera. The search turned up a possible hit -- an old mugshot for the 24-year-old man."
Because sometimes the only clue is a face.

Biometric ID to Streamline Indian Welfare Programs

Pune will be first to get biometric ration cards (DNA India)
In what could revolutionise the public distribution system (PDS), the office of the Food Distribution Officer (FDO), Pune has embarked upon an ambitious project of digitalising details of the more than 7 lakh ration cards in the district along with details of the 1,000-odd fair price shops in the eight zones that fall under it. Pune district is the first in the state where this unique project is being implemented.
“Although we weeded out around 2 lakh bogus cards, there still might be duplications in the list. Once all details are fed into the software, it would be able to check for duplications and those cards would be deleted,” she said.
1 lakh = 100,000

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Biometric Suppliers Accenture-NEC, L1 ID & Mahindra Satyam-Morpho Lock Horns with UIDAI Over Price

Deduplication: Suppliers want Rs 8; UID offers 2.75 (Economic Times)
Biometric vendors de-duplicating Aadhaar numbers have refused to work with Unique ID Authority of India after finishing their contract, next month. The vendors were eliminating duplicate or redundant information in the Aadhaar IDs at the price of Rs 2.75 per number fixed with the agency.
See also:
India: UID Costs Plummet as Accuracy Remains High

UIDAI dismisses doubts over accuracy of unique ID system (IBN Live India) - for a rare mention of the mathematics involved in deduplication.

h/t @Allevate

UIDAI to Receive Less Funding than Requested

UIDAI-Plan panel in a fresh row (Hindustan Times)
Row between Nandan Nilekani led Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the Planning Commission is not over with the former expressing its displeasure over allocation for the next financial year.

The Plan Panel had earlier objected to UIDAI’s move to collect biometric details of entire population saying it would lead to duplication of work as Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) had a similar mandate.

The issue was resolved after a Cabinet Committee on UIDAI decided to split biometric collection of residents between the authority and NPR. After the Cabinet decision, plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had claimed that both the organizations --- UIDAI and NPR --- will work together to implement the decision.

The UIDAI has now charged the plan panel of putting a financial barrier to meet the target of enrolling additional 40 crore people by June next year.
More detail at the link.

Trusted Traveler Programs Expanding

Airport Security Pre-Check, Other 'Trusted Traveler' Programs Expanding (Huffington Post)
Though it's been around since 2008, Global Entry is little-known outside the world of international globe trotters. It is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as Canadian, Mexican and Dutch nationals. Unlike Pre-Check, which relies on the airlines to vouch for their frequent flyers, Global Entry requires applicants to undergo a background check and interview before they can enroll.

Once in, they can use special kiosks that scan their passports and fingerprints. Although they are still subject to random checks, Global Entry members can usually bypass the long lines of passengers waiting to be interviewed by a customs officer at passport control. They also become automatic members of Pre-Check, which allows them to use dedicated lanes to whisk through domestic airport security.

6P-type Program for Burmese Migrants in Malaysia

It has been a while since we checked in on Malaysia.

Burmese Migrants in Malaysia Face Registration Woes (Relief Web)
“The inclusion of their biodata within a government database will lead to greater protection for refugees, particularly against arrest and detention as their identities can be easily verified by law enforcement officials,” said UNHCR representative Alan Vernon at the time.

“This will also help prevent prosecution of persons holding UNHCR documents for immigration offenses or deportation,” he added.

The UNHCR refugee registration program was scheduled to begin in January 2012. However, it has not started yet due to technical problems, according to a person familiar with program who asked to remain anonymous.

But acceptance into a 6P-based scheme does not guarantee an easy ride for Burmese migrants working in Malaysia, with many current 6P participants finding themselves worse off than before.
I love to read about how such a wide variety of organizations apply biometric ID management technology to challenges. Burmese refugees don't get a lot of attention in the global press so this article is very informative.

India: One State Hopes to Improve Worker Attendance with Fingerprints

Mamata Banerjee: Fingerprint-based attendance at state govt offices (Times of India)
Government employees can no longer sneak a French leave or walk out before 5.30pm. The Mamata Banerjee government is installing fingerprint readers that will record the time an employee logs in and logs out of office.

Attendance has always been a prickly issue with government employees. Many staff walk in late by simply signing in. Those who sneak out before closing time have evolved any number of smart tricks, including leaving their spectacles or bag on their table to feign that they are around and would return any time. Last week, on the day of the bandh, there was a tampering of the attendance register in the agriculture directorate at Writers' Buildings. Some staff were absent in spite of the threat of break in service but when a headcount was ordered, the page for February28 went missing.
"French leave" was a new one on me.

The comment section is as free-wheeling as the article.

Nigeria: Ghost Workers Will Haunt Administrators

Senate President Berates Pension Administrators (This Day Live)
The Senate President, who was represented by the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, said: “These people, the administrators stealing pension funds, can never live in peace because the prayers of these old men and women who have diligently served the country will haunt them and their children’s children. I implore the committee to unravel all the issues pertaining to the mismanagement of pension funds in the country and bring the perpetrators to book. Let me assure that this committee has the full backing of the Senate on this.”

Meanwhile, Obada who made gave the assurance to some of the retirees in Lagos at the ongoing annual verification exercise being held at the grounds of the Nigerian Army, 9th Brigade, Ikeja, said: “The yearly verification exercise is to ensure that we are paying the right people and not ghost retirees. We insist it to checkmate relatives of deceased retirees from claiming the benefits of a dead person.”

THISDAY gathered that the verification exercise which began yesterday, would involve biometric data capture.

Obada said: “This exercise will involve the biometric data capture which includes the iris scan and finger print capture.”

See also Nigeria: Biometrics Generate $965 Million in Pension Savings

New Hampshire Rep. Introduces Bill Preventing Banks from Using Fingerprints

Should you ever have to give a thumbprint to cash a check? (Nashua Telegraph)
Two years after a controversy arose because Bank of America required non-customers to get fingerprinted before cashing checks, one legislator wants to make sure it can’t happen again.

“The banks are saying ‘We need this to get the criminals,’ but in the process they’re treating all the citizens of New Hampshire as criminals,” said Rep. James Webb, R-Derry.

He is co-sponsor of a bill, HB 1262, “prohibiting banks from requiring blood samples, fingerprints, and DNA samples in order to complete a banking transaction.”
Paper checks are a very insecure method of conducting financial transactions and this is true for both parties to the transaction. The person writing the check gives away a piece of paper with a substantial amount of the information necessary for identity theft and the person (or entity) receiving the check takes certain risks of non-payment.

Check fraud is rampant and without a fingerprint, enforcing the laws against it is extremely difficult.

A person with no relationship to a bank that wants a bank to hand them cash in exchange for a piece of paper is going to be required to leave enough information behind to give the police a reasonable chance of tracking them down in the event they are perpetrating a fraud. If it's not a fingerprint, it'll be something else such as a scan of a drivers license. A person unwilling to do that either shouldn't take a check or they should be prepared to pay fees in order to assume part of the risk of a bogus transaction.

United States: DHS Finalizing Plan for Biometric Exit System

To Shed Light on Visa Overstays (
The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing its plan for a biometric data system to track when immigrants leave the United States and will present it to Congress within "weeks," a top department official told a House Homeland Security subcommittee Tuesday.

An exit system to track who is leaving the country and when has been sought since before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. DHS officials, including Secretary Janet Napolitano, have agreed with the need for such a program but have previously said it would be too costly.
I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that a comprehensive automated system for recording the departure of visitors isn't already in place at US entry and departure points. It's the kind of thing people just assume happens as a matter of course.

Biometrics can help at a reasonable cost.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Australia: Store of data on enemy combatants to secure future, aid allies

THE Australian Defence Force is sourcing technology that would allow the collection, storage, analysis and distribution of biometric data on enemy combatants (The Australian)

The only article I've found is too short even to quote from.

India: UID May Ditch India Post

Of the 130 million numbers allotted so far, only around 50 million people have received letters (

This has been a long time coming.

Borrowing heavily from an earlier post, UID Catch-22:

♦ India's bureaucracies aren't able to serve the needs of Indians because of an accountability black hole.
♦ A more rigorous ID scheme will increase accountability and deliver better results to citizens.
♦ Implementing the ID scheme depends on the bureaucracies (see statement 1).

Thankfully, the last statement isn't quite true. If true, it dooms the UID project on the bases of both bureaucratic will and ability. There must be many bureaucrats invested in the status quo that would love to see the UID project fail, and the UID load will be difficult for some bureaucracies to bear.

If you didn't click through yet, the above-linked article informs readers that the post office is currently falling short on its responsibility to print and deliver UID numbers.

But if the post office was a model of efficiency, might that call into question the whole reason for UID in the first place?
While UIDAI has allotted Aadhaar identities to 130 million residents, only around 50 million have received letters sent by the authority through India Post informing them about their 12-digit unique identification numbers. The letters have been mailed since the the first set of Aadhaar numbers were issued in September 2010. Some 450,000 letters have been returned to UIDAI.
The job of printing the letters has already been taken away from the agency which, according to its website, is the world’s largest postal network with 155,015 post offices as on 31 March 2009. Three private sector firms were given the printing job in January-end after India Post wasn’t able to take the load.
I suspect that none of these contingency plans were made up on the fly*. UIDAI knew it would have to use the post office and knew it would fail. There probably isn't a private entity in India that can displace the post office entirely, but competition among government entities is better than no competition at all and UID is also entering that competition directly by communicating numbers directly to individuals who have access to the internet.

In the final accounting, UID is not about biometrics. Biometrics is a means to better ID management. Better ID management is a means to bring greater transparency and accountability to nearly every aspect of how the government goes about its allocated tasks. Is it any wonder it has so many enemies?

Identity management is about people; the challenges of UID are and will be as much managerial as technical.

*Just having the right technology is not sufficient to roll out a project on this scale. “What we need to do is create an appropriate ecosystem,” said Nilekani. In short, getting the incentives right for all those involved in the project."

See also:
The epic marketing challenge for UID
India: Is UID Under Siege?

New Statistical Model Assigns Probability to Fingerprint Evidence

Statistical model removes barriers to using fingerprint evidence in court (Homeland Security NewsWire)
Potentially important fingerprint evidence is currently not being considered in legal proceedings owing to shortcomings in the way it is reported, according to a report published Wednesday in Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association. Researchers involved in the study have devised a statistical model to enable the weight of fingerprint evidence to be quantified, paving the way for its full inclusion in the criminal identification process.

A Wiley release reports that fingerprints have been used for over a century as a way of identifying criminals. Fingerprint evidence, however, is not currently permitted to be reported in court unless examiners claim absolute certainty that a mark has been left by a particular suspect. This courtroom certainty is based purely on categorical personal opinion, formed through years of training and experience, but not on logic or scientific data. Less-than-certain fingerprint evidence is not reported at all, irrespective of the potential weight and relevance of this evidence in a case.
It may come as a surprise that fingerprint evidence in court cases depends upon expert witness testimony. It is only admitted if an expert claims absolute certainty of a match.

The shortcomings (error rates) of the current system are well described by Cognitive Consultants International (CCI) in their study of actual professional examiners [pdf]. Since the evidence is collected from the chaotic environment of a crime scene and frequently consists of partial fingerprints, a heavy burden falls upon professional examiners and the methods used by examiners open the door to errors related to the way humans process information. The team found statistically significant unevenness among examiners and even within the same examiner.

Deciding whether two fingerprint marks originate from the same source requires examination and comparison of their features. Many cognitive factors play a major role in such information processing. In this paper we examined the consistency (both between- and within-experts) in the analysis of latent marks, and whether the presence of a ‘target’ comparison print affects this analysis. Our findings showed that the context of a comparison print affected analysis of the latent mark, possibly influencing allocation of attention, visual search, and threshold for determining a ‘signal’. We also found that even without the context of the comparison print there was still a lack of consistency in analysing latent marks. Not only was this reflected by inconsistency between different experts, but the same experts at different times were inconsistent with their own analysis. However, the characterization of these inconsistencies depends on the standard and definition of what constitutes inconsistent. Furthermore, these effects were not uniform; the lack of consistency varied across fingerprints and experts. We propose solutions to mediate variability in the analysis of friction ridge skin.
Cognitive Solutions has quantified the error rates of the current system and have made proposals to reduce those error rates. They propose a reassessment of how examiners are recruited and trained; And since different types of latent print lead to different error rates, they recommend further research into the categorization of latent fingerprints.

Alternatively, in Fingerprints at the crime-scene: Statistically certain, or probable? [pdf], Cedric Neumann and Julian Champkin propose a statistical error-checking method applied to the minutiae used by examiners in order to generate a probability score for the match, arguing that "DNA experts are required to give probabilities for their evidence of matching; fingerprint expert are forbidden to. This bizarre situation ought to be ended, in the interests of justice as well as of common sense." This is how they do it:

Figure 2, slightly edited, from Significance. Fingerprints at the Crime Scene.

Historically, in most countries, 12 minutiae that matched each other in type, orientation and position have generally been considered sufficient to identify the source of the mark. Until 2001 the UK required 16 correspondences to establish proof of identity. Both these numbers arose through experience rather than statistical analysis.

The reasoning that currently leads experts from minutiae to identification is essentially a psychological one that cannot be rationalized and rendered explicit. The method that my colleagues and I have presented also relies on those minutiae; but numbers are derived from them.

On any given finger impression, the most prominent minutiae – say six – can be selected and joined up, in a clockwise direction (see Figure 2). They will form a pattern – essentially a six-sided polygon around a centre. (The centre can be defined as the arithmetic mean of the Cartesian co-ordinates of our six points.) A polygon is a much simpler pattern than the whirling lines of a full print or mark. It is also much easier to analyse numerically. The basis of the method is to describe that polygon with a set of variables.

h/t @MDKConsulting