Stronger identity with biometrics
Rising importance of biometrics as the only accurate and secure means for the identification of people
Identity comes down to one question: how can we prove that we truly are who we say we are? To tackle this issue, governments issue identity documents for validation. “Over the course of the last ten years, traditional identity papers have been falling short”, explains Ronny Depoortere, Senior Vice President at Zetes PASS. “The quality of counterfeited documents has been rising.” That is where the need for biometrics comes in. Biometrics offer a way to uniquely identify humans, based on one or more intrinsic physical traits, such as facial traits, fingerprints, palm prints and iris recognition. “This offers a huge advantage. Two people can have the same name or date of birth, but they never have the exact same physical traits. Moreover, as opposed to a paper document that can be manipulated, stolen or lost, you always carry this biometric information with you. That makes biometrics a truly safe system for the identification of people.”
Biometrics in Europe and Africa
Therefore, the interest of governments and international institutions in biometrics is growing. Europe, for example, has issued a guideline that implies the use of passports with chips that contain the holder’s picture and fingerprints. “However”, says Ronny Depoortere, “these recommendations require special measures ensuring privacy. Indeed, in the Western world, the use of biometrics has been raising some privacy concerns.” That doesn’t seem to be the case on the African continent, where biometrics are regularly used for the creation of voters’ lists, in order to prevent fraud.
The largest project of this kind has been the one executed during the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006. 26 million citizens were then registered with Zetes’ biometric kits. With new presidential elections coming up in 2011, the authorities organised the update of the electoral lists and ordered 9,500 additional kits. “The fingerprints are the principal identity determining factor, with the picture serving as an extra control mechanism. The picture also appears on the voter’s card for visual identification.” Following the enrolment, each voter receives a voter identification card on the spot, as proof of the registration. After the 2011 elections, the biometric kits will remain in place at the municipalities, offering an identification infrastructure for other public services.