Think ID theft is a problem here? Try protecting one billion people

CIOL has an interesting news report about  improving the accuracy of national biometric IDs, as used in India’s Aadhaar program. The Aadhaar program, which I’ve blogged about occasionally over on, collects citizens’ fingerprints or eye scans and the ID cards are used to secure benefits under state programs. So far, about 500 million people’s data have been collected, although there have already been a number of security breaches and concerns.  And of course, a national ID creates significant privacy concerns. But the focus of this particular CIOL article is on accuracy of the biometric identifiers:

For Indian officials, the big practical challenge has been to make the program more accurate without getting bogged down when used by a billion people. Participation in India’s program is voluntary, not mandatory.

The researchers’ solution, which Indian officials are studying at the highest levels, is to focus on a particular subset of each person’s fingerprints and eye scans that are the easiest to compare to those originally scanned. The combination of fingerprints and iris data will vary from person to person. For some people, it could be just the right index finger. For others, it could be an index finger and a thumb. Or, it could be the irises, or a combination of fingerprints and irises.

By spending a small amount of time on most people, and more time on a minority of others, the researchers found they could keep the average verification time to just 37 seconds. That’s a bit longer than it takes to just compare one finger, but the rate of false rejections is about 200,000 times lower.

Read more on CIOL.

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