Massachusetts contemplating biometrics to curb welfare fraud

Bill proposes Mass. study implementation of fingerprinting, biometrics to reduce welfare fraud (MassLive)

Under the provision, the Department of Transitional Assistance and the Office of Health and Human Services would be required to study the feasibility of using biometrics – which includes fingerprints – to reduce fraud in public benefit programs.

The language, part of a $15.4 million amendment assembled by the House Committee on Ways and Means, cleared the House on a 158-0 vote Tuesday afternoon.

New York City actually implemented a system like this a few years back. It worked, too. Mayor Bloomberg liked it. Governor Cuomo didn’t. Survey data at the time indicated that a majority (53%) of Americans favored such an approach.

New York City: Fingerprints for Auditing Food Stamps (October, 2011)
Governor Proposes to Prevent New York City From Using Biometrics To Stem Welfare Fraud (May, 2012)

NYPD getting mobile fingerprint tech

NYPD Equips Officers With Biometric Smartphones (Government Technology)

New York Police Department officers and vehicles are to be outfitted with new technology as part of a $160 million program that will lead to fewer arrests and more summonses after being fully implemented next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Oct. 23.

All 35,000 NYPD officers will be equipped with smartphones that allow officers to search databases, view wanted posters and scan suspects’ fingerprints.

Following Mayor Bloomberg’s remark that public housing should incorporate fingerprinting technology and rumors of Apple implementing this technology for the new iPhones, two experts discussed the state of biometric security and where we are headed with it. (PIX 11)

There’s a good video at the link. I removed the video from this post because of the annoying auto-play feature which comes with the embed code. The video at the link above does not autoplay.

UPDATE: An interesting take on the political part of the story that echoes our Technology-and-Policy theme… Bloomberg is Right and Wrong About Fingerprinting Public Housing Residents (Frontpage Mag)

Governor Proposes to Prevent New York City From Using Biometrics To Stem Welfare Fraud

Cuomo Pushing City to End Food-Stamp Fingerprinting (New York Times – h/t @m2sys)

This despite the facts that, according to the commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration, the system has saved over $35 million over the last ten years and New York City reaches a higher percentage of the food-stamp-eligible population than does the state as a whole.

Identity management is about people so it’s not surprising that politics enters into government-run identity management systems.

That’s as it should be, but this poll from February found that

53% believe Americans applying for food stamps should be required to be fingerprinted in order to be eligible. More than a third (36%) disagrees, while 11% are undecided.

So in terms of identity management in welfare programs, biometrics work (ROI), they’re popular (unless New Yorkers have extremely different opinions of the subject that the US as a whole, 53% for, 36% against), and the governor wants to force the City to scrap them. Well, that’s politics for you.

Like I said, Identity management is about people. Politics, too.

See also:
New York City: Fingerprints for Auditing Food Stamps
USA: 53% Favor Fingerprinting Requirement For Food Stamp Applicants