Ukraine mulls biometric voter verification for Members of Parliament

UDAR suggests taking fingerprints of MPs (forUm) “A new voting system, which reads fingerprints of MPs must be introduced in the Parliament, deputy leader of the UDAR Party faction Vitali Kovalchuk said on the sidelines of the Verkhovna Rada, ForUm correspondent reports.”

Piecing this together from a couple of places at http://en.for-ua.com. The main story linked above is very short. There is also a photo gallery of the event where the press was invited to witness “the working of the voting system ‘Rada-4′”.

I took the above photo from that gallery. Is that an optical fingerprint reader illuminating the hand in the photo?

If so, and I realize I’m piling speculation atop a mere suggestion, it would mark an interesting development in the administration of legislative bodies.
The São Paulo City Council instituted a biometric time and attendance system, but I’m not aware of a biometric system used in a legislative body to ensure that the person casting a vote is a member and that the member in question isn’t going around to all the empty desks and voting in the place of his absent colleagues.

UPDATE… Ukraine: New passport law, no fingerprint for now

ORIGINALLY POSTED 29 NOVEMBER 2012. UPDATED & BUMPED.

Yanukovych signs law on biometric passports (Kyiv Post)

The document foresees the introduction of electronic passports containing electronic chips with biometric information for traveling abroad, according to standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

According to the law, the passports of Ukrainian citizens will be produced in the form of cards with contactless smart chips and issued no later than 30 calendar days from the date of the submission of a relevant application. The electronic passports will include the name of the state, the name of the document, the full name of the holder, the holder’s gender, citizenship, date of birth, and a unique number in the register, the number of the document, the date of the document’s expiry, the date of issue of the document, the name of the agency that issued the document, the place of birth, a photo and the signature of the holder.

I was going to write the post title as “Ukraine: New passport law, no biometrics for now,” but ID photos are biometrics.

UPDATE:
This press release says that the Ukraine passport will, in fact, contain fingerprints. It states, in part:

Ukraine approved the introduction of electronic IDs and creation of the state demographic register in the country. The relevant law, signed today by President Yanukovych, will take effect on January 1st, 2013. It stipulates the introduction of the documents for traveling abroad that have a built-in proximity chip with registry information on the holder. The IDs will comply with the standards recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

It will take 30 days to produce such an ID, which will hold information about name, sex, citizenship, birth date and place of residence of a person, their photo, signature, and additional biometric data, as well as issue and expiration dates. The law clarifies that digitalized signature and photograph of a person’s face constitute main biometric data, while digitalized fingerprints are additional biometric data. [emphasis mine]

Aside from buttressing the point made above about that face photos are biometrics, the release strongly hints that fingerprint biometrics will be a part of the new passport. If that’s the case, the fact was omitted from yesterday’s Kyiv Post piece. Perhaps the press release contains enough ambuguity to interpret both pieces as accurate.

We’ll keep an eye out for new information.

UPDATED: Ukraine, Biometric Passports and the Politics of ID

Yanukovych: Ukraine to fulfill obligations on introduction of biometric passports (Kyiv Post)

Ukraine has had a hard time with implementing a biometric passport.

First, there are real and compelling reasons for adopting a new document standard for passports that uses a chip to hold information (including biometric information). Defense against document fraud, human trafficking and other types of organized crime spring immediately to mind.

Then there is the pressure from Europe to modernize ID documents. Because of Europe’s huge market, cultural importance and proximity to many non-EU countries, there is a lot of international travel to and from the EU. At the same time, the relative wealth of the EU countries compared to the countries with which they share land borders creates incentives for extra-legal behavior (immigration, smuggling, organized crime, etc.) that might be lowered by adopting more rigorous ID management practices.

The EU is driving its end of the bargain by harmonizing travel and ID practices within the EU (plus a few other countries; see Schengen Area) and offering visa-free travel to citizens of countries that make it easier to administer cross-border traffic through better document technology and law enforcement cooperation.

So what’s not to like?

ID documents are, of course, extremely political. They are also a source of revenue to the authorities that issue them and the companies that supply the materials, services, or the manufacturing related to them.

For the nation of Ukraine and Ukrainians who are frequent international travelers successful passport modernization would be a good deal with the state collecting fees that frequent travelers can afford to pay and who are, in turn, compensated with smoother border crossings. Ukrainians who don’t, won’t or can’t travel would be left alone.

So what’s not to like?

Ordinary Ukrainians weren’t sure about the second part and the international travelers weren’t sure about the first part.

A year ago, the deliberations on ID document modernization in Ukraine took place under a cloud of suspicion that the new document wouldn’t actually move the country to visa free travel to Europe, would cost a lot, and since Ukrainians already carry domestic passports, foreign passports, social identity cards, identity cards for insured people, pension certificates, certificates of persons with disabilities, and driving licenses, many (enough, apparently) suspected that the true impetus behind the effort was just another opportunity to collect fees and/or throw a new contract to a connected firm and they worried that the effort might not be limited to international travel documents.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych vetoed the effort of last year and the initiative seems to have been resurrected as something resembling the more optimal approach described in theory above.

It’s not a done deal yet but it looks like Ukraine is making progress.

NOTE: This post has been modified slightly from the original version to add clarity.

UPDATE:
Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy is the first deputy prime minister of Ukraine. Perhaps more relevant to our discussion here, he also used to run the State Customs Service.

His piece today in the Kyiv Post is much lengthier than other treatments of Ukraine’s regional integration efforts which tend to be very narrowly focused.

In it, he discusses in more detail many of the topics we touched on above, including:

  • Visa free regime with the EU; 
  • Biometric passports;
  • Other identity documents;
  • Human trafficking;
  • and the flip-side of organized crime, corruption.

Ukraine harmonizing ID practices with Europe

Ukraine to Introduce European Standard of Biometric ID (Press Release via Sacramento Bee)

A bill concerning the introduction of biometric IDs in Ukraine passed the first reading in the country’s parliament. Biometric documents will contribute to border security between Ukraine and the EU. The draft law provides for the creation of a unified state demographic register, which will contain basic personal information on each citizen. Additionally, the draft stipulates issuing the documents for traveling abroad that have a built-in proximity chip with registry information on the holder.

See also:

Biometric IDs A Step Toward EU – Ukraine Visa Simplicity (argophilia)

With the EU planning to assess the effect visa liberalization will have on illegal migrations soon, Ukraine tourism inbound and out stand to benefit if the new IDs fly with EU counterparts. The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, created the State Migration Service already, an agency responsible for managing citizenship, immigration, registration, and political asylum issues.

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