How noisy are ghosts?

Ghana: Biometric Payroll Underway (GhanaWeb)

“We, however, wish to assure genuine public servants who may not have taken part in the biometric registration exercise, and therefore have not received their salaries for July, that payment will be duly made to them.”

The release said “such public servants are therefore encouraged to quickly go to the nearest Regional Office of the Controller & Accountant General’s Department or to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Annex (FIC Building), Accra where they will be immediately registered and their payment quickly processed.”

It’ll be interesting to compare the volume of complaints to the length of the lines at enrollment stations.

Post Offices Streamlining Government Services with Biometrics

The UK Post Office is active in the ID management industry, serving as a clearing house between individuals residing in Britain and various government bureaucracies dealing with ID and now Post Office Limited has processed the biometric information of more than one and a half million applicants through its Applicant Enrollment Identification (AEI) service.

The UK Post Office serves as a customer service link between individuals and the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the UK Border Agency, capturing applicant information such as fingerprints, photographs, and digital signatures and charging a fee of £19.20.

The DVLA uses the AEI service to allow drivers to renew their drivers’ licenses. By capturing drivers’ photographs and digital signatures at Post Office branches, the service has automated the renewal process that occurs every ten years. Using AEI, the renewal process takes an average of 3.5 – 5 minutes.

The UK Border Agency uses Post Office branches to record and securely transmit biometric information and other applicant data for those wishing to extend their visas. Once the digital signature, photograph, and fingerprints are received and checked by the UK Border Agency and they are satisfied with all aspects of the immigration application, the UK Border Agency issues the foreign national a Biometric Residence Permit.

Here’s how it works…

National post offices are in a unique position to offer services like these. Some have been better than others at managing through the information revolution. Australia blazed a trail that the UK followed. The template is there for others to follow.

Unfortunately it’ll be difficult to pull off in the United States because most ID is administered at the state, rather than at the national level. The US Postal Service does provide passport services for first-time passport requests and charges $25 for the service, but it’s largely locked out of the more lucrative ID business the state’s have carved out for themselves.

See also: 3M’s press release about its relationship with Post Office Limited

Kenya: No Biometric Voter Roll This Time — UPDATE: Declines US Offer of Free Registration Kits

AUG. 3, 2012
It looks to be official. Kenya will not be using biometric ID management techniques in the national elections of March 2013.

Kenya scraps electronic registration plan for vote next year (Reuters)

Kenya’s electoral commission has abandoned plans to introduce an electronic register of voters after the tendering process descended into acrimony, stirring fears among members of parliament that an election next year will be marred by fraud.

Next March’s general election will be the first since a disputed poll in 2007 that triggered a politically-fuelled ethnic slaughter in which more than 1,200 people were killed.

MPs grill IEBC over canceled tender (Capital FM – Nairobi)

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) spent Thursday morning defended its decision to cancel the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) tender and outlining its preparedness for the 2013 General Election.

Appearing before a joint parliamentary committee of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committees, IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan said that two of the shortlisted bidders failed in the due diligence report while the other two quoted above IEBC’s budget.

Hassan, though without further explanation said the decision was made after the process became ‘murky’ and after it was infiltrated by ‘extraneous’ factors.

Now Kenya has to conduct the next years elections the “old fashioned way.” In and of itself, this isn’t a problem. Until a few years ago, everyone that conducted a clean election did it without biometrics. Applied correctly, however, biometrics can make corruption of the electoral process more difficult.

It’s also refreshing, in a way, that the IBCE backed off and admitted that it could not come to a decision on the proper way to implement biometrics in the elections.

A rigorously executed biometric election is a very complex undertaking (and I still think we’re witnessing progress toward a more perfect  implementation template) so early adopters need to have a strategic vision and the managerial acumen to pull it off.

Also, biometric elections are expensive — in our opinion, more expensive than they should be — and it’s hard for government agencies to turn down the opportunity to direct large sums of donated money and even larger amounts of public funds. The IEBC’s decision is all the more striking given Kenya’s perceived level of public corruption (ranked 122nd of 150 countries by and 154 of 183 by Transparency International).

Nevertheless, the IBCE still has its work cut out for it.

UPDATE AUG. 6, 2012: IEBC Team Rejected Hillary Clinton’s BVR Kit Offer

“The IEBC was concerned that even granted that the political implications were put aside, time constraints would make the operationalisation of the project impossible owing to the limited time left,” said the source.

The Commission on Implementation of the Constitution chairman, Charles Nyachae, confirmed that the issue of BVR featured in the discussions with Clinton. He said he got the impression that the issue had featured in Clinton’s earlier meetings with President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and National Assembly Speaker Marende due to the special emphasis she seemed to have on it.

Biometric voter registration kits are expensive but the the training, voter education, and logistical aspects of a biometric voter registration effort are extremely daunting, too.

See aslo:
Clinton seeks free, fair polls in Kenya (Afriquejet)

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Nairobi Saturday for a meeting with Kenyan leaders and sounded Washington’s strongest warning ever that a repeat of the 2007 Presidential vote-related violence would not be tolerated. “We as a partner and friend are hoping that this election, which is complex, goes very smoothly so that everyone is so proud because of what has been achieved,” Clinton said after meeting Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki shortly after arriving in the Kenyan capital on a flight from Entebbe, Uganda.

Dragon vs. Siri?

Nuance’s Nina Platform Adds Speech Interface to Corporate Mobile Apps (AllThingsD)

AllThingsD got a demo of the [Dragon Naturally Speaking] technology last week. It basically brings together what Nuance does well: Speech recognition, text-to-speech, natural-language understanding and voice-ID biometric technology. It has rolled all of these into a hosted, cloud-based service that can be used by banks, insurance companies and other business who make customer service and account-access applications, which can now add all these features into their applications.

Voice Recognition is a behavioral biometric modality that is used to distinguish among individuals for identity management purposes.

Speech Recognition is a software set designed to allow users to interact with IT hardware and systems by speaking.

An app that can do both well at a reasonable price should do quite well in the market. USAA is an early adopter

Go-Time for UID in 46 Districts

Delivery test for Unique ID (Yahoo – India)

The rural development ministry and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) yesterday decided to use the unique identity (Aadhar) numbers with in-built biometric data for delivery of payments to individual beneficiaries under all ministry schemes.

To start with, the ministry has selected these 46 districts where the Aadhar coverage has been substantial.

“Payment of individual beneficiaries under various schemes is to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore per annum.

500,000,000,000.00 INR = 8,953,599,435.1083 USD
Indian Rupee US Dollar
1 INR = 0.0179072 USD 1 USD = 55.8435 INR

Interesting Data on Sierra Leone Voter Enrollment

Updates on the electoral process (Sierra Express Media)

To-date, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has issued Two Million Four Hundred and Twenty five Thousand and Twenty Six (2,425,026) Voter ID Cards out of a total of Two Million Six Hundred and Sixty Three Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Six (2,663,746) printed cards. The difference of two Hundred and Thirty Eight Thousand Seven hundred and Twenty (238,720) represents:

♦ Unclaimed cards
♦ Cards not yet collected by Diasporas
♦ 794 duplicates currently being investigated by CID
♦ Correction done during Exhibition

The data obtained from the exhibition process are being consolidated and will be matched with the central Biometric Voter Registration data in Brussels, Belgium. Voter ID Cards will subsequently be printed and distributed nationwide during the last week of August 2012.

That’s impressive!

There’s much more, including the cost of the exercise at the link.

Indian Editorial: A Fulsome Defense of UID

Ray of hope for the neglected (Daily Pioneer)

This one’s got some spice to it…

Well, despite the ability of the Government to track any individual, the sheer volume of India’s population makes the Government’s task fairly difficult. The inability of police forces to track wanted criminals is a case in point. The fact remains, if someone wants to disappear in India, it is not difficult.

And there is a second argument. In this ultra-connected era where we willingly put up information about ourselves; where we are, what we are doing, who we are with; is privacy really that important. Or is it just a concern of a few highly-educated conspiracy theorists?

The fact is that many countries have a national identity system, most famously the US’s Social Security Number, and while the Aadhaar number might give the Government a lot of information about its citizens, particularly biometric data, as long as that information can be securely stored, that is a cost I, and I believe most citizens are willing to pay. As for the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists, well, in a country the size of India the one thing that surprises me is that there are not more of them.

Biometrics for Patient ID Program Aims to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse

Gallia first to enroll in Rx pilot program (Daily Tribune – Gallipolis, OH)

The program, being launched through a public-private partnership between regional health care provider Holzer Health System and CrossChx, a company based in Gallipolis, is known as the Biometric Enrollment and Verification Prescription System and will allow doctors to compare health records from multiple sources to help determine the eligibility of a patient to receive a prescription for medication.

CrossChx (pronounced “cross checks”) will provide the technology to track health information and will, specifically, use biometrics, or the identification of an individual through his or her inherit traits — in this case, fingerprints — to allow prescribers to receive real-time patient information.

The article goes on to note that, locally, 30% of the infants in the neo-natal intensive care unit are addicted to opiates.

ID Isn’t Perfect. How Perfect Can (or Should) It Be?

One in Six Sex Offenders Lives Digital Double Life (KCEN-TV)

Still, she said it’s important that states move to biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, to maintain more accurate records of offenders and their whereabouts.

“Criminals are constantly thinking of ways to beat the system,” she said. “The system is never going to be perfect.”

Rebovich is hoping the study will spur new methods for checking up on sex offenders, including techniques that would seem familiar to those who work in financial fraud. In a model developed by Utica and ID Analytics, offenders could be given a score, similar to a credit score, which would rate the likelihood that identity manipulation was occurring.

The article covers a lot more ground than it is fair to copy and paste. It also begs important questions.

Given that ID management perfection isn’t an option, what approximation of perfection is desirable?
What costs are worth bearing?

The Utica College Center for Identity Management and Information Protection is to be commended for their work.

If you’re here, you’ll probably want to read the whole thing.

See also:
Utica College Center for Identity Management and Information Protection
and Biometrics “Fix” Identity – Even if there is fraud in the identification process, biometrics can be used to fix a single identity upon an individual.

Biometrics Part of Plan for Central African Development

Central African states to create organ to handle Regional Economic Program (Xinhua)

The leaders therefore asked the CEMAC commission to accelerate the process of establishing emergency funds which will guarantee sustainable funding of REP.

In order to promote real integration within the CEMAC zone, the conference of heads of state decided to implement the principle of free movement of persons through the issuance of biometric passports for members of the six countries in the sub-region.

Regarding the establishment of the regional airline, Air CEMAC, the conference of heads of state encouraged speedy conclusion of negotiations with Air France which will be a technical partner for the project.

The ability to travel underpinned by rigorous ID management are two very important factors in economic development.

Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC)

More on Ghost Voter Registrants in ARMM

This detailed and wide ranging analysis of the fraud surrounding the voter rolls in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) at least ends on an optimistic note.

Expelling banshees (Inquirer News)

ARRM is haunted by phantom students, wraith-teachers, “even ghost schools in ghost barangays,” says Jamar Kulayan, who was appointed January. A Tausug, Kulayan found it had become practice in the region for teachers to bloat student-enrollee numbers.

There are 2,000 teachers in excess of 20,000 officially hired. “Names of teachers already dead, retired, or abroad were still listed.” They and continue drawing their salaries. A “Task Force on Moratorium of Abolition and Creation of Schools” is now operational.

The new final Book of Voters is still ahead. But a consensus on making honest elections the centerpiece of ARMM reforms exists, notes Institute for Autonomy and Governance’s Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI… The new technology of biometrics will be used to ensure honest polls.

If this drill succeeds, it’d be a fitting legacy for P-Noy, new ARRM officials and NGOs working to purge lists. Exorcising banshees is a welcome change.

This detailed and wide ranging analysis of the scope the fraud surrounding the voter rolls at least ends on an optimistic note. See: At Least the Kids Can’t Vote Twice in ARMM, Philippines

Fraud, Crime and ID Interoperability

Police: Billerica suspect gave fake ID (Lowell Sun – Massachusetts)

Maybe Jose Vega thought he was fooling the police.

Confronted Tuesday morning, police said Vega identified himself as “Jose Negron.”

Unfortunately for Vega, Negron has a lengthy list of arrest warrants out of Essex District Court stemming from several felonious drug-related arrests in Lynn in 2008, according to police.

When he finally gave his real name, he allegedly admitted to police he was using Negron’s identity so he could work while collecting disability benefits.

One ID (Vega) is an able-bodied non-felon. Another ID (Negron) is a disabled felon.

Evidently (and unsurprisingly) the disability rolls and arrest warrants databases aren’t linked and there is a way to exploit both ID’s. The trick is using the compromised ID only with people in the handing-out-money business, and your real ID with those in the hauling-people-off-to-jail line.

Eventually biometrics helped police determine that Jose was telling the truth when he (Vega) confessed to being a fraudster rather than the wanted felon (Negron), so he’s got that going for him.

UID: Problems and Solutions

The article by Harshal Kallyanpur linked below does a very good job of frankly confronting the challenges and mistakes of the UID process while remaining balanced about its value and the benefits of having it go forward and succeed.

UID: Soldiering on (Express Computer)

UID has by far been one of the most significant technology projects undertaken by the Government of India. Designed to give a unique identification number to every citizen in the country, the project would eliminate the need for every citizen to provide a lot of different proof of identification documents in order to get their work done.

The main purpose of the project was to ensure that each and every citizen, regardless of his socio-economic status, could partake of public services from the government. At the same time, UID will also enable an Indian citizen to provide a single proof of identity while availing of different public and private citizen facing services.

US: Outstanding Airmen of the Year Award Winner Played Key Role in Biometric ID System

Keesler member wins Outstanding Airman of the Year (Keesler Force Air Base)
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Angelo Banks of the 81st Security Forces Squadron.

NIST releases second draft of federal ID credential security standard for commentWhile deployed at the transit center at Manas, in Kyrgyzstan, he secured $451 million in assets, 90 combat sorties and 296 tons of cargo. He led 19 fly-away security missions to 39 hostile forward-operating bases delivering 1,300 passengers and three detainees.

Banks also played an instrumental role during the implementation of the Defense Biometric Identification System, processing base access for more than 39,000 base users. Additionally, he positively identified and arrested a suspect with a $215,000 warrant who was attempting to gain access to a high-profile event on base. Additionally, Banks has volunteered with organizations such as Airmen Against Drunk Driving and Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.

According to Banks, doing your job well is one thing — being professional and showing respect is another.

Is Residence Address an Important ID Management Detail?

Do we really need to worry about proof of address? (Economic Times)

It is possible to abandon proof of address altogether and accept an applicant’s submission as authentic. Biometric tags and de-duplication software that works across multiple databases – driving licences, hospital records, school and college registers, insurance and bank accounts – would identify cases that call for further verification.

Sure, this means a lot of computerisation. So what?

Trust everyone’s claimed address, verify those that give cause for doubt. This is integral to inclusive growth.

There are some really good points here.

At first I thought that, if not address, than some geographical descriptor would be necessary in many real world applications. Voting in state and local elections is geography dependent. Many public services are provided only to people in a given jurisdiction.

But author T K Arun makes a good point. In a world of perfect database interoperability and deduplication, residence address doesn’t matter much, especially compared to the challenges and misery associated with having a huge population of people without ID.

From the individual angle, so long as an individual can only vote in one place, as long as they can only collect cash transfers intended for one group (for example they are prevented from simulteneously collecting subsidies for rice growers and fishermen), overall ID-based shenanigans will decrease.

On the service provider level, if databases are linked, two schools claiming to educate the same child (and billing the government for it) would have some explaining to do. For more along these lines, see Biometrics “Fix” Identity.

It’s an interesting conversation and we may be headed that way, but for now, perfect interoperability and (single factor) deduplication isn’t a reality.

But like we always say, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Give the poor man an ID — even if he can’t give a permanent residence address.

Biometric Disruption and Disintermediation

India Continues Ambitious Effort To Biometrically Identify 1.2 Billion Citizens (Forbes)

Ultimately, the success of the program is not about the performance of technology, but the efforts of the people behind it. The same systems that can bring accountability and transparency can be used for mass-surveillance and digitized discrimination.

Hey, that sounds familiar.

Tarun Wadhwa is correct to focus on the organizational, entrepreneurial, aspects of UID and the disruption and disintermediation it has the potential to bring.

I believe this is the first time I’ve used the term disintermediation in the blog, though Fareed Zakaria used it in his iterview with Nandan Nilekani in the video here.

Disintermediation is a fancy word for the elimination of middlemen. In government programs it is often considered to be a good thing. But one of the challenges of UID is that “about 50% of the human race is middle-men and they don’t take kindly to being eliminated.”

Middlemen who add value in the supply chain aren’t easily replaced by technology. The really smart ones adopt the technology that threatens their position, if they can.

Indian State of Uttar Pradesh Isn’t Waiting for UID

Uttar Pradesh to give foodgrain via biometric cards (Thaindian News)

Uttar Pradesh will computerise the public distribution system and issue biometric smart cards to its residents, an official said Thursday.

Chief Secretary Javed Usmani said foodgrain would be provided to people only through smart cards to flush out fake ration cards from the system.

In the first phase, 18 districts would be covered as pilot project.

Uttar Pradesh Isn’t Waiting for UID. Judging by the scant information in this article, they’re forging ahead anyway.

We mentioned here how Nandan Nilekani was creating competition for India Post in order to gain access to better services for delivering UID numbers to individuals.

Could the shoe now be on the other foot?

Is UID going to have to improve its performance in competition with states who appear willing to set up their own systems?

Biometrics “Fix” Identity

Even if there is fraud in the identification process, biometrics can be used to fix a single identity upon an individual.

An article in today’s Canberra Times about people smuggling brings home the point.

Despite some unauthorised arrivals’ lack of documents, biometric capability is critical. In a few cases, unauthorised boat arrivals will be identified from international databases, particularly through fingerprints. Even if people cannot be identified, the collection of biometric data on arrival provides a basis for anchoring the identity of an unauthorised arrival, so that the Australian community can be confident it is dealing with one person and that further identity-shifting is difficult. It also leaves open the possibility of identification in the future. [Emphasis mine]

One classic use of identity fraud among professional criminals is the use of multiple ID’s so as to keep a clean identity and a dirty identity. If possible, all the documents involved are “real” in that even the ID card related to the fabricated identity is issued by the legitimate authority.

When the the professional criminal with his family in the car is pulled over for running a stop sign in his neighborhood by a police man who goes to the same church, he presents his “real” ID. When he’s picked up in the course of his job, say 1,500 miles away, with a trunk full of weapons and narcotics, he gives the police the ID containing bogus information.

The arresting officers call the ID authority who created the false ID card. Sure enough, he’s in the database. No criminal record. Light sentence for a first offence and he can still go back to his life, get another ID, and go back to work, too.

The same pattern works well with fraud.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, yes — until biometrics.

Once ID issuing authorities institute biometric checks before issuing new ID documents, even a person who lies on their original ID application is stuck with only the one ID.* Further attempts to obtain additional ID’s can be detected and investigated. Later claims of a false identity (or lost ID) can be unraveled.

This is something that might have given pause to the person who supplied Mr. Coriander with fingerprints. If he thought the only time those fingerprints could be used for a UID number, he might not have found the joke as funny.

*This applies to discrete ID management system. If ID databases aren’t linked, it may be possible to maintain different identities in different databases.

An Embarrassing Insubordination – It Takes a Human To Give Coriander an ID

Coriander s/o Pulao, Aadhaar No 499118665246 (DNA India)

Coriander and an apple, as per the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), are residents of India as they have been given an Aadhaar number. And this, perhaps, has been the last straw.

Expressing shock at this, not to mention there having been several complaints of impersonation, the Union home ministry has asked UIDAI to get an internal as well as external security audit done by a third party to fix the lacunae in the enrolment system and avoid any more goof-ups.

OK, let’s get this out of the way. This story is funny and embarrassing. We even had some fun with it in April and May of this year: UID Embarrassment: Vegetable Gets an ID and Take that, Cilantro!.

It is also being blown way out of proportion. Nobody used Coriander’s ID to do anything good or bad.

P Keshav, a Member of Legislative Assembly from the district where the fraud occurred has speculated that the fraud was probably a prank played by someone who wanted to show how casually the process of data collection is done in villages and that the private agencies entrusted with the job have no understanding of the job.

So the hoax was probably an inside job. At the very least it required the complicity of an employee of a trusted entity: one of the companies that facilitates enrollment. Nevertheless, a corrupt official at the DMV issuing false documents doesn’t call the whole drivers license regime into question, and the same is true for UID, but it does encourage policy changes.

The unwanted attention the fraud has brought on the UID enrollment process has led to policy changes that should make the situation better. More attention will be focused on the private operators who charge money to collect enrollments. There’s no reason why the private agency and the employee responsible the fraud couldn’t be sanctioned. In fact, UIDAI probably should institute some sort of performance metric that affects payouts to the private firms based upon data quality, which despite The Coriander Affair, has remained high even as costs have fallen.

It’s important to remember that the management challenge of UID is every bit as difficult as the technical challenge.

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