Dutch government turns to biometrics

ITworld.com |  Business

In its search for effective measures against "look-a-like" fraud where
passports and other documents are illegally shared, the Dutch government is turning
to biometrics. Trials involving scanning of irises of eyes and faces will start
in June.

As technology made passports and other identification documents harder to forge,
authorities have seen fraud by sharing of original documents increase, Interior
ministry spokesman Frank van Beers said Wednesday.

"Passport photos aren't good enough to determine a person's identity,
especially where it concerns people of different ethnic backgrounds," he
said.

In Rotterdam, 250 people from ethnic minorities will have their irises scanned.
The data from that procedure, unique for every person, will be stored on a chip
card. The person's identity can then be confirmed by inserting the card into
a terminal followed by a scan of the iris.

Scanning of the iris is done by looking into a special camera behind a plate
of glass. The people involved have all recently arrived in the Netherlands and
are waiting to hear if they can stay. While waiting, they have to report to
the local police every month. The scanning project means that it will become
impossible to send a family member or friend with similar looks.

Another project involves facial scans of participants in a mandatory course
for newcomers in the Netherlands who have been granted a permit to stay. Characteristics
like distance between the eyes and the size of the face are measured and stored
on a chip.

In 2003, all Dutch citizens with European Union (EU) identification cards will
have unique biometric data stored in a chip. These cards are travel documents
for use within the EU only. Passports will also get a chip, but a date has yet
to be set, Van Beers said. The biometric information will not be centrally stored
in a database, only on the chip, he stressed.

The trials are conducted with immigrants because they have to report to the
police regularly. This facilitates the testing of the systems, Van Beers said.

"For now we are only talking about testing technology," he said,
adding that Unisys Corp. will be the technology partner in the trials. Van Beers
declined to specify how much money is involved in the trials, saying only that
several parties are providing funds.

Gathering biometric data requires special equipment. In 1999, the market for
biometric equipment drew about US$166 million in revenue. This figure is expected
to reach $1.8 billion in 2004, according to market research firm International
Data Corp. (IDC), a Framingham, Massachusetts-based company owned by International
Data Group Inc., the parent company of the IDG News Service.

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