Data Driven Insight for Biometrics, Digital Identity & eIDs

Biometrics, Mobility, Digital Identity, ePassports, eIDs, Automated Border Control, eGates, Secure Documents...

Have/Will mobile phones become our de facto “global identity card”?

Posted: March 3rd, 2015 | Author:

This article is interesting food for thought ….

Mobile phones have quietly become a global identity device we don’t really need

By David Glance, University of Western Australia

Phone as ID

 

Mobile phones have become central to our lives. In the US, 90% of adults have one. Although we think of mobile phones for their primary role in communication, they have quietly become a global identification device. Governments, and their secret services and law enforcement agencies in particular, have in most countries moved to prevent individuals from being able to buy a mobile phone without producing official identification. As far as these agencies are concerned, being able to identify the owner of a mobile phone is essential in being able to track the parties in a conversation. For countries like Australia that are considering metadata retention, having people identifiable greaty facilitates the analysis and detection of information of interest.

The problem with requiring identification for purchasing mobile phones is the same problem as for collecting metadata of all citizens in a country, it is not a particularly effective means of stopping or even deterring crime or terrorism but it has a disproportionately large impact on privacy and civil liberties of ordinary people.

Requiring identification to buy pre-paid mobile phones for example has not been shown to increase detection of criminals and has had the opposite effect of creating markets for stolen phones and unidentifiable SIM cards. The sorts of criminals law enforcement and security services would be after would also be generally more than capable of avoiding using phones that they had personally bought. At the same time,

On the flip side, there are a range of scenarios in which law abiding citizens are disadvantaged by the need to produce identification in order to buy a phone. This can range from people who don’t have access to official identification documentation like the homeless, through to people in family situations who don’t have control over their documentation and so are prevented from using it for this purpose.

More insidious however has been the way social networks like Facebook have adopted the mobile phone as a way of preventing anonymity on their networks. Although Facebook does allow just an email to create and verify an account, if a phone number is used, it needs to be a number that has not been used before and is registered with a recognised telecommunications provider.
As Facebook states:

“We have limits in place to make sure that everyone is using their real
information on their account.”

There is no real way around this. Facebook mobile verification will not work with “virtual phone numbers” such as those that can be set up in different countries to forward to your real phone number or even to a “soft phone”.

In fact, there are services from companies such as Telesign that will do the telephone number verification to ensure that it is a legitimate number from a recognised service provider.

Another consequence of using mobile devices for identification purposes is that it also acts to limit technological advances. The inability to use virtual numbers that might be associated with Skype or other services for the purposes of verification means that ultimately, that flexibility that these services offer is compromised.

Countries like Australia, that have struggled with the population when trying to introduce national identity cards have met with no resistance when introducing proxies for this card and in particular, mandatory identification for mobile phone purchases. The argument for identity cards was given as the need to fight terrorism even though in the last terrorist attack in Australia, the identity and significant information about the terrorist, Monis, was actually known by intelligence services.

Even with this information, the attack went unforeseen. If 18 phone calls to report the individual could not alert the services to an imminent attack, the idea that they will be able to discover this information in metadata is dubious at best.

Identification features of the mobile phone have taken a bigger leap with the advent of fingerprint use in the Apple iPhone and other smartphones. The use of the fingerprint links phones to bank details and by design establish the identity of the phone user at any point in time. Of course, Apple, Samsung and other companies will claim that this information is not made available to governments, but post-Snowden, that argument no longer holds very much validity.

The surveillance of a population is an easy option for politicians, even when they struggle to understand the technologies involved. It gives the appearance of using sophisticated means to combat potential threats. It also, like the identification properties of mobile phones, gives a country hidden benefits in control of whistle-blowers and political activists. It also means that these actions can be carried out without oversight, making the abuse of this power almost inevitable.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Filed under: Biometrics, eIDs, Market Development, Mobility, National ID, Smart Devices | No Comments »

Sprinting towards 1.2 billion

Posted: October 3rd, 2011 | Author:

The latest from India presented both by Daon’s Cathy Tilton at last weeks BCC in Tampa and reported in the news is that

One year after launching the gigantic enrollment process, 37 million people have been issued biometric identity numbers. 60 million others have enrolled and will be given the numbers shortly. And starting next month, one million people are expected to register every day for the biometric ID.

While I appreciate the optimism expressed, 37 million ( or even 97 million if enrolled but not issued are included), this is a far cry from 1.2 billion. It is not just the challenge of maintaining a consistent level of 1 million “quality” enrollments a day for nearly three years non-stop that gives me pause.  Or successfully performing the unprecedented number of  biometric matches required to de-duplicate this data. It the inevitable “breakdowns” that occur within any IT system that relies on exponentially growing databases of this size.

An IT system can hum along and then reach certain data levels at which things just break. Maybe it is 200 million, or 500 million, or 1 billion. Or all three. It could be something simple requiring a relatively quick software fix. Or it could be a substantial flaw requiring significant system reengineering.

This type of inevitable system issue is easily exacerbated by the demands of  biometrics. There is no model for a  biometric database of this magnitude. What if half way through the process, a quality issue arises that limits the ability to successfully continue to complete biometric comparisons?  What if natural limits on biometric differentiation emerge?

While I do believe that biometric identification is inevitable in India and ultimately globally, the UID biometric system is based on untested theory so it might be prudent to temper enthusiasm for this mammoth undertaking. The harsh lessons learned from global industry experience  with delayed, severely delayed, or even failed biometic ID programs ought to provide a healthy dose of skepticism. 3 years to build a reliable, de-duplicated  database of high enough quality to ensure expected outcomes for more than 1 billion people is a sprint where clearly a  marathon is in order.

 


Filed under: Biometrics, eIDs, National ID | No Comments »

National eID Marketplace

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author:

Acuity’s latest research report “The Global National eID Industry Report” is out and the findings – while not unexpected – shed some interesting light on the marketplace.

Global revenues are projected to reach more than $11 billion by 2013,  and while this number will fluctuate a bit based on program launches and deployment surges, Acuity believes this to be a sustainable market value.

While the number of countries with some form of National ID program is projected to increase 11% from 126 to 140 from 2010 to 2015, the number of countries with National eID programs will grow from 67 to 114, an increase of 70% over the forecast period.  This dramatic shift from National IDs to National eIDs characterizes the overall adoption pattern of the National eID market.

These adoption numbers vary significantly from the prepublication findings Acuity released earlier this year, that you may have seen on the website or presented at the SDW conference in April.  This is in part due to additional research and new announcements, but primarily due to an expansion of the definition of an “eID Program”.

Initially, for the purposes of the report, National eID programs were restricted to those issuing chip based cards. However, this excluded two key countries with programs in progress: India and Mexico. It seemed counterintuitive that these 2 critical countries did not qualify.

This led to a revised definition of an “eID Program” which includes 3 categories of programs: those that include a chip-based card and may or may not include biometrics, those that rely on biometrics but issue a non-chip based, or traditional card (Mexico), and the those programs that rely on centralized biometric registries (India).

The result is a lengthier report that includes more National eID countries (114) and reflects a more complex National eID ecosystem. More information and Previews are available at the Acuity website.


Filed under: Biometrics, eIDs, National ID | No Comments »

A Kodak Moment

Posted: May 4th, 2011 | Author:

In many ways the evolution of the  identity credential market is likely to mimic what transpired around the turn of the 21st century in the film photography market.

The decade started well enough for Eastman Kodak. In 2000 it clocked film revenues of $11 billion, had 70,000 employees and 14 factories around the world. Then things started going pear shaped. Come 2009, revenues from the sale of film had fallen to $1.3 billion, the workforce had dropped to 20,000 and the number of factories had gone down to one.

Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Data Driven Analysis, eIDs, ePassports, eVisas, National ID | No Comments »

National ID adoption data preview at SDW in London

Posted: April 5th, 2011 | Author:

Acuity previewed its upcoming Global National ID report at this year’s Secure Document World conference and exhibition. Tuesday, April 5th’s presentation “Identifying Stars and Black Holes in the eID Universe” includes worldwide National eID uptake by country, annual volume issuance, and total global circulation.

Acuity also introduced the eID Constellation, an analysis tool that maps the relative progress towards the development of fully operational, multi application eID service environment by country or region.

A sneak preview of the presentation is available here.

Cheers,

Max


Filed under: Data Driven Analysis, Market Research, National ID | No Comments »