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Biometric cards will not stop identity fraud

New Scientist has learned that the proposed system to introduce identity cards in the UK will do nothing to prevent fraudsters acquiring multiple identity cards.

Unveiling the proposals last week, the home secretary, David Blunkett, said they are necessary to prevent identity fraud. Every resident would have to carry an ID card containing biometric information, such as an iris scan. Cards could then be checked against a central database to confirm the holder’s identity.

But Simon Davies, an expert in information systems at the London School of Economics and director of Privacy International, says the system would not stop people getting extra cards under different names. If he is correct, it could have far-reaching implications.

The problem, says Davies, is the limited accuracy of biometric systems combined with the sheer number of people to be identified. The most optimistic claims for iris recognition systems are around 99 per cent accuracy – so for every 100 scans, there will be at least one false match.

Bill Perry, of the UK’s Association for Biometrics, agrees that there is an upper limit to the reliability of iris scans.

It’s not an exact science. People look at biometrics as being a total solution to all their problems, but it’s only part of the solution.

He added that using more than one biometric identifier – for example, iris scans and fingerprints together will also be considered. This would solve the accuracy problem, but vastly increase the cost.

Oh, jolly good. So scanned and finger-printed is the way to go…

Thanks to Groc’s Bloggette for the link.

1 comment to Biometric cards will not stop identity fraud

  • Guy Herbert

    There’s another problem. The biggest user of multiple and false IDs –and one whose needs must be accomondated by the sytem, is the government itself. What use is a spy or undercover cop or customs investigator who can be smelt-out by simply accessing the database?

    If it worked as advertised, it would end the government’s much advertised war on organised crime, and make checking up on other technically advanced countries impossible–though the biometric satndard is sometimes claimed to be being adopted across the G8. En route those pesky investigative journalists might be prevented from embarrassingly exposing wrongdoing by public servants, of course, but I sincerely doubt the system will really be allowed to undermine the secret police. So it can never be genuinely one-to-one and onto the population even absent hacking, fraud, and corruption.

    The words “misdirection” and “disinformation” spring to mind. I can’t think why.