ID card trial exposes biometric failings

ID card trial exposes biometric failings

An initial trial of biometric verification in the UK - including electronic fingerprint, iris images and facial scans - has uncovered problems with the scanning technology used to register identities.

The biometric enrolment trial, which was commissioned by UK Passport Service (UKPS) in partnership with the Home Office and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), was conducted by Atos Origin and is part of government research into a national identity cards scheme.

The trial involved more that 10,000 participants, but the detailed research centred on 2000 "quota" people chosen to match the general population and 750 disabled participants.

Of the three biometric tests, the lowest verification success rate occurred with the facial scans which only worked for 69% of the quota group and 48% of disabled volunteers. The study found that lighting conditions adversely affected facial verification along with changes in a person's appearance.

Fingerprint scanning worked for 81% of the quota group and 80% of disabled people. According to the study, the device used for verification occasionally did not record sufficient detail. Younger people also had a higher success rate than older participants who found it difficult to use the scanner. The report says the scanner was sometimes "too small to scan a sufficient area of fingerprint from participants with large fingers".

Overall iris scans were found to be the most successful form of biometric verification, with success rates of around 90% for quota participants, although the technology was less successful with black people and people aged over 59. But 39% of disabled participants experienced problems with enrolment for iris scanning technology.

Minister Tony McNulty told reporters that the trial was not a test of the technology, but was designed to study people's experiences of being enroled on biometric schemes. McNulty says the high failure rates partially explain why all three forms of biometric will be included on putative identity cards or passports.

Overall it took an average of seven minutes 56 seconds for the quota group to be enrolled for a card through biometric scans. But the process took longer - nine minutes and 43 seconds - for disabled participants.

All quota participants were able to enrol successfully on at least one biometric, but a small percentage (0.62%) of disabled participants failed to enrol on any of the biometrics.

Read the trial report:Download the document now 1.3 mb (Adobe Acrobat Document)

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