Not a bug, but a feature

Massive errors mar Aadhaar enrolment (Times of India)

The enrolment process for Aadhaar in Odisha is dogged by massive rejection of data due to errors. According to the directorate of census operations here, enrolled biometric data of 40 lakh people stand rejected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the Aadhaar body, as on June 15.

Some facts:
Odisha is a state in eastern India. The wiki has its population at 43.73 million as of 2014.
1 lakh = 100,000
1 crore = 10,000,000
All numbers not quoted from the article are in more familiar units.

The article goes on to say a lot about the numbers. 31,700,000 out of 38,400,000 people (82%) of the eligible population have been registered successfully.

The 4 million rejected applications are divided as follows.

2 million were rejected because they were submitted by operators who have been barred from submitting applications. UID works by outsourcing enrollment to private operators who are then paid by the government for accepted applications. Operators who have submitted too many error-riddled or fraudulent applications have been banned from the market.

1 million have been rejected for being duplicate applications, as is proper.

That leaves 1 million true “errors,” or failed enrollments that are potentially valid and are described as those submitted on behalf of “very old people and children (between five to 10 years), whose finger prints and iris scans were not registered properly.” Now, it may turn out that some of these failed enrollments are duplicate applications as well and it will probably turn out that many (if not most) of these people can be enrolled on a second pass where extra care is taken during the enrollment process. Nevertheless describing 1 million failed enrollments out of 32.7 million presumably legitimate applications as “massive errors” seems uncharitable.

Also, UID contains a “Biometric Exception Clause” which allows for creating UID numbers for people whose biometrics cannot be enrolled. As of May 2015, across India, around 618,000 (0.07%) of UID numbers have been issued with biometric exceptions.

India UID: Interesting de-duplication and exception stats

Over 9 crore Aadhaar enrolments rejected by UIDAI (Zee News)

Out of 823.3 million enrollments, 97.3 million (Approx. 12%) have been rejected for reasons of either quality or duplication.

This may seem to be high to some, or low to others. In the big picture, there is (or should be!) a cost-benefit analysis at the beginning of the project that gets at the expense of the process vs. the infallibility of the process. On the first pass, it might make sense to get the highest proportion of good enrollments with the most convenient process, then to engage in a more expensive enrollment process applied only to more difficult enrollments.

It’s also important to note that the 97.3 million rejected enrollments contain both duplicate applications, which must be rejected and other applications where clerical error, fraud, or un-enrollable biometrics are the reason for rejection.

Another interesting statistic in the article is that only about 618,000 UID numbers have been issued under the “Biometric Exception Clause” which allows for creating UID numbers for people whose biometrics cannot be enrolled. That comes out to around 0.07%.

What that means is that (depending on the number of people waiting for a biometric exception) using a data set approaching a billion individuals, at least 99.3% of the population of India is biometrically enrollable within the existing UID enrollment process.

Note: The article uses the Indian numbering units crore and lakh.

1 crore = 10,000,000
1 lakh = 100,000

See also: UID applications without biometrics highly likely fraudulent

India: Iris to replace thumb print for pensioner verification in one district

‘Iris recognition system’ for pensions to be launched in Andhra Pradesh (Niti Central)

A biometric ‘Iris identification system’ for distribution of pension will be soon launched in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.

At present, the pensions are being paid by taking a thumb impression of the pensioners, Krishna District Collector A Babu said in an official release. However, sometimes the illegible thumb impressions create problems, he said.

This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen one biometric modality displace another one in an existing ID management application.

The performance expectations for iris must be substantially higher than what the existing fingerprint system is producing because it looks like there will have to be a new enrollment process for pensioners in the 100 political villages and municipal wards undertaking the change.

UAE to open biometric visa enrollment center in Sri Lanka

UAE opens its first visa issuing centre outside the country in… (Emirates 247)

The new visa centre serves 500 customers every day and uses passport authentication and biometrics such as fingerprints, eyeprints and faceprints, and medical tests conducted at 15 Sri Lankan centres accredited by U.A.E. Ministry of Health, in order to identity, and prevent entry of individuals with contagious disease.

The procedures will save costs of recruitment, quarantine and deportation and improve customer service as they are aimed at providing excellent consular services fulfilling internationally recognised standards.

Tanzania: Biometric voter registration without biometric verification at the polls

Tanzania: BVR Is for Voter Registration, Not Voting, Says NEC (All Africa)

NEC Vice-Chairman Judge (retired) Hamid Mahmoud Hamid clarified that people should take note of the fact that the system will only be used for registering voters and not for voting purposes. The commission’s Head of PNVR and ICT, Dr Sisti Cariah, said NEC will collaborate with the National Identification Authority (NIDA) to reduce costs since the latter is currently doing the same in its national identification project.

 

Tanzania

Here’s a piece, slightly edited, that we posted when initially it was reported that Ghana would forego biometric voter verification. Ultimately, Ghana decided to go for biometric voter verification, and despite some imperfections and a simmering dispute among political parties, they seem to have pulled it off. The same issues apply to the Tanzania voting infrastructure.

Originally posted May 15, 2012:

Without biometric verification, the whole enrollment exercise turns on the ID document. A document-dependent electoral system can be successful if three conditions are met: The process whereby legitimate documents are issued is very rigorous; The document is extremely difficult to counterfeit; And there is no significant corruption of the ballot-stuffing or ballot destroying variety.

Rigor in the document creation would include such measures as a real-time biometric query against the database of registered voters before issuing a new registration card in order to prevent duplicate registrations. Making a document difficult to forge involves high tech printing techniques or embedded biometrics for later verification. The corruption part is a function of culture and institutional controls.

Avoiding over-reliance on the physical ID document is perhaps the greatest benefit of using biometrics in elections. If there is no biometric voter verification, the only voting requirement is to have a more-or-less convincing registration card with a more-or-less convincing photo on it.

Biometric verification, by making the finger rather than the paper the overriding criterion for receiving a blank ballot, confers two tremendous advantages. Multiple voting can be made extremely difficult even for people who have multiple government issued registration cards. Second, ballot stuffing can be curbed because an audit of the total number of votes recorded can be compared to the number of fingerprints verified on election day as legitimate voters.

By creating the perception that the electoral apparatus is more effective than it really is, implementing a biometric voter enrollment system without biometric voter verification could even lead to more electoral uncertainty than the system being replaced.

A well-thought-out biometric voting system can reduce fraudulent voting to very low levels but it’s also possible to spend a lot of money on a leaky system that involves biometrics without accomplishing much in the way improving the integrity of the vote.

The same sort of analysis can, and should be applied in Tanzania.

New technical approaches to facial recognition technology

The Animetrics press release below contains some really interesting information about facial recognition innovation.

Early adopters and potential adopters of facial recognition technology have been pressing hard for improved performance. Animetrics and others have responded by coming up with automated ways to improve the quality of the data processed through to the template generation software for matching. The press release does a very good job of describing Animetrics approach.

Animetrics Unveils ID-Ready, Cloud-Based Facial Biometric System (Animetrics Press Release)

The service takes a grainy, partial view, angulated 2D facial image, applies 2D-to-3D algorithms and corrects the pose of the face, and makes it ID-Ready for most any facial recognition system.

“ID Ready essentially takes a bad image and makes a mugshot out of it,” said Paul Schuepp, chief executive officer of Animetrics.

Most facial recognition systems require photos be a frontal view of a face in order to make a positive match. However, most photos studied by law enforcement are of faces that are rotated, “off pose” and are captured by low resolution video security cameras or long distance telephoto surveillance cameras.

“This type of uncontrolled imagery renders face recognition systems impractical because of the poor matching results, if results occur at all,” says Schuepp.

Here’s how the system works: law enforcement personnel upload a 2D photo to Animetrics servers at id.ready.animetrics.com and the ID Ready system applies facial feature point detection (eyes, nose tip, mouth, etc.) to accurately find the face and specify the parts Fine-tuning is possible by the user positioning three red crosshairs over both eyes and tip of the nose.

From there a 3D model is created and a new 2D resultant image that is pose-corrected to zero for facial pitch, yaw, and roll along the x, y and z axis.

Read further and you’ll discover that the innovation doesn’t stop with the technology. The sales/distribution model is noteworthy, as well.

Malawi opts for 2019 rather than 2014 for biometric elections

Malawi wont use biometric voter registration for 2014 polls-official (Star Africa)

“We have resolved that the implementation of the biometric system be used in the 2019 elections,” he [MEC Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga] said.

Kalonga said the commission will conduct a comprehensive field tests and civic education programmes on the solution.

Countries that haven’t rushed the process have done a better job implementing biometrics into election ID.

Philippines makes it official: biometric voter registration required for 2016 elections

Biometrics now in force to cleanse voters’ list (Manila Standard Today)

Voters who fail to submit for validation on or before the last day of filing of application for registration for purposes of the May 2016 elections shall be deactivated.

“It is the policy of the state to establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters through the adoption of biometric technology,” the new law read.

Mandatory Biometric Voter Registration Introduced in Philippines (Future Gov Asia)

The new law prohibits the use of the database of voter information for “any purpose other than for electoral exercises”, and requires the Comelec to keep the database secure.

Of course, we’ll await news of any plans for biometric voter verification.

Consequences of the Coriander kerfuffle?

300 errant UID agents blacklisted (DNA India h/t @M2SYS)

Following complaints about agents doing the rounds of Aadhaar enrolment centres seeking money from applicants, the state government and UniqueIdentification Authority of India (UIDAI) have blacklisted around 300 such errant operators in Mumbai.

“Around 300 operators have been blacklisted in Mumbai,” said Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Deputy Director General, UIDAI, adding that this had been done because of complaints regarding money being sought from applicants, proliferation of agents at centres, irregularities and quality issues.

Following such high-profile cases as giving vegetables ID’s (and them presumably charging the government for it), a purge of unscrupulous and/or ineffective UID enrollment agents has been a long time coming.

A scam involving shaking enrolees down would be far more difficult to detect using automated means than determining which agencies showed higher-than-average rates of submitting bogus enrollments, so I’m glad the UIDAI is willing and able to send actual agents to enrollment centers where there are reports of agents soliciting bribes.

Impressive voter registration numbers in the Philippines

The 52 million voters registered to vote in the upcoming Philippine elections is impressive because the previous peak voter enrollment of 51 million, was trimmed by four million after delisitng ineligible voters and the net 5 million additional voter registrations have been biometrically vetted for uniqueness.

Registered voters hit 52 million (ABS-CBN News)

For the country’s first automated polls in 2010, 50,653,828 voters registered.

“It’s not a net gain of one million, rather about five million because the (almost) 51 million in 2010 went down to 47 million after delisting. Now it went up again (to 52 million),” he said.

For the 2013 polls, the Comelec resumed the continuing registration of voters and validation of registration records for more than a year until last October.

During this period, the poll body also removed from their list voters who registered more than once by cross-matching their biometrics data using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

This resulted in the delisting of around five million voters, Jimenez said.

I can’t find anything that indicates the the Philippines are planning biometric voter verification at the polls, though.

Praise for Ghana’s recent elections

We Should Learn From Ghana Experience (PM News)

“Having been based in Ghana as the Nigeria High Commissioner for four years, going back for the last election was an added value to my trip, in the sense that I can confidently say that their last election where I was an observer, was an improvement on what transpired during the previous presidential and parliamentary election in Ghana.

The introduction of the biometric data-based machine actually assisted in terms of verifying and authenticating the voters and orderliness despite the huge turn out. The orderliness demonstrated by Ghanians was highly commendable.”

If I recall correctly (and unlike the recent Ghanaian elections), the last Nigerian elections featured biometric registration but not biometric voter verification. That recollection is supported here, where a Nigerian official expresses hope for 100% biometric voter authentication by 2015, and later in the interview.

More at the link.

New Zealand Post office to offer ID assurance services

New Zealand Post online ID system backed by lawmakers (Post & Parcel)

New Zealand has adopted legislation granting the powers for a new national online identity verification service run by the government jointly with New Zealand Post.

The Electronic Identity Verification Act was passed by the nation’s Parliament last week, allowing private sector organisations to access the RealMe ID verification service.

The service launches in 2013 to verify people that use certain services over the Internet are who they claim to be.

NZ Post is set to get even more involved in ID services (see last year’s New Zealand ID Management: New Possibilities).

Around the world, enterprising postal services — who have seen their traditional business model of moving paper around steadily eroded — have been changing adding more explicit identity management services. I say “more explicit” because I believe it can be argued that the primary function of the postal service has always been identity management, the paper part was just ancillary to the ID part.

This post, The Post Office, Identity Assurance & Biometrics, expands on the theme.

Click Postal Service (or use the label in the footer) for more on post offices and ID services.

India UID: Things are about to get real

In simple terms, an ID project has two parts: enrollment and verification.

Enrollment is the process by which a user is vetted by, entered into, or purchases an ID management regime.

Verification is when the ID management solution actually has to fulfill its intended function.

You don’t really know for certain if the key you just had made is going to open your front door until you try it. You won’t know if the combination lock you just bought works until you try it. And India won’t know how smoothly the UID-based system can provide a transition away from the subsidy system to the cash transfer system until it gives it a try.

Verification is where the rubber meets the road and India is about to take its first UID test drive as Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, announced last month the launch of a direct electronic cash transfer scheme leveraging India’s Unique Identification (UID) Programme. (FutureGov)

The government has announced that direct cash transfer of subsidies to the bank accounts of the recipients would start in 51 out of India’s 659 districts from January 2013 and would be gradually extended to the rest of the country by April 2014. (The Hindu)

Hopefully things go well. It’s hard to overstate the challenge involved or the importance of the project’s success.

Ghana election context

ID management is about people.

The following article about Ghana isn’t about biometrics but it provides some of the context in which Friday’s biometric (registration and verification) elections will occur this Friday.

Biometrics have helped put rigorous ID management systems within the reach of organizations that couldn’t obtain them before.

Coup era over, Ghana showcases African democracy (Las Vegas Sun)

“The reason Ghanaians are so drawn to democracy,” analyst Jonah said, “is because they have seen that democracy in Western countries has brought a very high level of development, and they want to be like America, they want to be like Britain.”

He said that if the rulers can deliver the services the people need, “Then people will say, `OK, democracy isn’t just every four years selecting people. Democracy also brings development.'”

Sierra Leone votes today

Can tech revolutionize African elections? (CNN)
by Jonathan Bhalla at Africa Research Institute

An often overlooked aspect of the current electoral cycle in Sierra Leone is the use of biometric technology to capture thumb prints and facial features in the registration of voters.

“Credible elections start with credible voter registration,” remarked Christiana Thorpe, chief commissioner of Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission, during a presentation at Africa Research Institute in London in July 2011. For Thorpe, a bloated or inaccurate voter register always has a negative effect on the electoral process.

Read the whole thing.

United States: Happy Election Day!

Today is Election Day in the United States and — as I was reminded upon pulling in at our nearly-empty local parking garage — it’s a state holiday here in the State of West Virginia and also in Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and the territory of Puerto Rico.

While most of us, if we live in a representative democracy, think about election day as happening every so often. Other people are always thinking about elections, not from a partisan or even a political perspective but from the technical and scientific aspects of how to engineer better electoral mechanisms.

The E-Lected blog is the work of one group of people answering the description above. They do good work. Check them out by clicking their logo below.

e-lected blog (a view on electronic voting around the world).

Today they have a timely contribution: Technological solutions to the problems of voter authentication. The closing paragraph is quoted below but it’s well worth reading the whole thing, and if you’re interested in nuts-and-bolts electoral issues, e-lected is worth a regular visit.

As a blog advocating for the implementation of the electronic technologies to strengthen modern democracies, we are convinced that, if a polling station has a reliable electronic poll book with a robust database which includes biographic and biometric information of every eligible voter in, and the voters are authenticated by means of a fingerprint-based biometric device, both problems can be solved and election integrity and legitimacy guaranteed.

Translate »