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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Identity cards: "broken" and now "doomed to fail"

    I reported in February the item on broken biometric passports in The Register, which noted that
    "we were told by our consultants that the use of current facial recognition technology with two dimensional images (as is the case for ePassports) is not sufficiently reliable to enable fully automated searches even in relatively small databases, and performance is known to decline as database size increases..."
    The use of the iris scan in the ID card biometrics were put on hold by the government last December, which left the good old fingerprint. Now - via 'File on 4' (31 July 2007) - we learn that fingerprint matching suffers from virtually the same problem as facial recognition:
    the government's ID card system will give thousands of "false matches" when more than six million people are registered on its database.
    A leading academic, Professor John Daugman, said 'using fingerprints as a key biometric measure will cause major problems' although the Identity and Passport Service has denied this. According to Professor Daugman,
    using a biometric scan of the iris - the coloured part of the eye controlling the amount of light that gets through to the retina - would give better accuracy than a fingerprint... I don't want to be very pessimistic and say this whole system is doomed to fail but I will say that just from analysing the mathematical requirements, if it is just fingerprint, it is unlikely to be able to succeed.
    He esimates that
    by the time the UK system had enrolled say six million people, which means two or three years into the roll-out, about one new person in a 1,000 will be making false matches against the database.
    And how much are we paying for this scheme that offers little and is apparently doomed to fail? The figure (see Function creep = Budget creep) romps ever upwards.

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