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« The business of privacy | Main | Healthy scepticism »

Register this

By davebirch posted Jun 5 2007 at 2:33 PM
[Dave Birch] I don't think a biometric register, by itself, is a bad thing. In fact, it's on balance probably a good thing. But it has to work to a high standard: a biometric that is 99.99% accurate will return hundreds of false matches against a population register. That's why I think that if there is going to be a proper National Identity Register in the U.K., it should comprise multiple high-quality biometrics (and no other personal information, but that's a separate point). The U.S. is already moving in this direction. The FBI's planned biometric register upgrade will store not only fingerprints but also iris scans, and in the future may include enhancements to their ability to use DNA as a forensic tool, according to a recent briefing on plans for its Next Generation Identification (NGI) system.

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A biometric gold standard register must, of course, be gold standard secure as well. In a recent discussion on ForumOxford, Tomi Ahonen said

There was a funny story in the book 100 Phenomena by Hannula & Linturi which they wrote as a set of news stories from the future. One was that when the full Finnish citizen database was on one server, some clever Asian hacker got into it, stole all IDs and sold them at bargain prices for Asians who wanted to get into the EU. Suddenly a massive amount of Asian people appeared on European borders with 100% digitally accurate passports and Finnish names like Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Janne Ahonen, Tomi Ahonen, Jari Litmanen, Esa Tikkanen, etc.
Creating biometric databases and using them as a digital identity, rather than in support of a wider digital identity management system will inevitably lead down this route. If I look into the reader and the reader tells the security guard that I am the Prime Minister, then he will override the evidence of his own eyes and let me in to 10 Downing Street.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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