A father of three who committed €25,000 worth of social welfare fraud until he was caught using facial recognition software has been jailed for 18 months.
Welfare keeps economy going, says Joan Burton (The Irish Times)
The ceiling on her department’s spend next year had been set at €610 million lower than this year. Savings as a result of measures already taken would begin to bear fruit next year, and so the “ask” was a cut of €440 million. There were also increasing “asks” being made by changing demographics. There were more pensioners who were also living longer, the Minister said.
The live register was slowly coming down – now at 13.6 per cent – but not in some of the communities worst affected by unemployment. While foreign investment in job creation was healthy, the types of jobs being created were not helping the communities worst-affected by unemployment, she said.
Ms Burton said fraud prevention measures, such as identity checks and biometric identity cards, were saving €700 million a year.
It’s not easy to draw a definite conclusion from the facts prevented about how much the better ID techniques are contributing to lower budget requests from the Minister for Social Protection. Foreign investment, job creation and the changing demographics of the retired portion of the population also influence the demands upon the Ministry, but better ID management certainly helps.
Troubled Facebook software to tackle dole fraud (Irish Examiner)
In its latest effort to weed out welfare cheats, the Department of Social Protection plan to begin using facial-matching software from the beginning of the new year. The software will use photographic identification supplied with all new claims to automatically detect any other claims made by that person.
The technology will also have the ability to compare the supplied image with images stored by other Government bodies such as photos taken for driving licences and passports. The department believes this will help to stamp out dole cheats’ ability to use forged or stolen identities to make multiple claims.
I guess you can tell from the headline that the Examiner doesn’t approve. Nevertheless, facial recognition is a pretty good way to catch some welfare cheats.
If the photos are already available, running them through a facial recognition engine to search for duplicates doesn’t require any new, specialized hardware or add any steps for the people that do the one-on-one work with prospective beneficiaries.
The system Ireland is rolling out is similar ones in use in the United States (i.e. New York) for preventing identity fraud through the issuance of multiple drivers licenses under multiple names to the same person.
It’s mostly inspired by the Facebook photo tagging affair but it deals with privacy issues and biometrics in a holistic way.
The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (‘ODPC’) recently published its audit report regarding Facebook. The audit was undertaken to determine whether Facebook had implemented recommendations stemming from the ODPC’s first audit in 2011. While the audit was largely positive in its findings, the photo tagging feature introduced by Facebook, ‘tag suggestion’, was deemed by the ODPC to be a step too far for compliance with European data protection rules. This tool used cutting-edge facial recognition technology to automatically suggest the matching of names and pictures, i.e. upon the Facebook user uploading a photo, ‘tag suggestion’ would prompt the names of the individuals appearing in such image.
Consent, contract and transparency are all discussed in some detail at the link and we’ve discussed those topics philosophically on this blog in the past. There is also an analysis of proportionality in the linked article. Proportionality is a concept seen a lot in discussions of privacy issues involving European government institutions. It’s not a big part of privacy discussions in the United States.
In Europe, governments seem to feel freer to proactively inject themselves into arrangements between private entities than do governments in the United States. The recent French decision re biometrics for time-and-attendance is a good example of the invocation of proportionality to regulate the behavior of private entities.
In the United States, negligence, liability and torts seem to fill some of the roles proportionality plays in Europe. Since the legal system in the United States generally holds that one cannot consent to another party’s negligence, negligent parties are exposed to civil suits in the event that a data breach harmful to individuals occurs.
In general, it seems that the European approach is more proactive and government driven while the approach in the United States is more reactive and driven by private interests.