Needless to say, biometrics have become a popular and widespread access control and identity management technology, authenticating people by their biometric features. Applications are wide-ranging, including those used in the government.Needless to say, biometrics have become a popular and widespread access control and identity management technology, authenticating people by their biometric features. Applications are wide-ranging, including those used in the government.
Biometrics are the “what you are” factor in access control and identity management, joining “what you have” (tokens/cards) and “what you know” (passwords) as factors for authentication. Whereas the latter two factors can be copied or known to others, biometrics, be they fingerprint, face or iris, are unique features of individuals and cannot be easily duplicated.
It is precisely because of the level of accuracy biometrics offer that they are often deployed in end user entities that are critical in nature, for example government. In fact, biometrics' potential for government applications is not to be ignored. A recent study by Global Data shows that the global government biometrics market stood at US$4.3 billion at the end of 2017 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 6.37 percent to reach $7.9 billion in 2027.
“The U.S. and European nations, including the U.K., Germany and France, were early adopters of biometric recognition systems; however, the technology has now found a strong foothold in emerging markets such as China, India, Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Mexico,” the report said.
In terms of segments, the report finds that the fingerprint recognition segment is expected to account for 36.4 percent of the market owing to its large scale implementation in various government projects across the globe. “Fingerprint recognition segment is followed by the facial recognition segment, with a share of 31 percent. Iris/retinal identification, signature recognition and other technologies account for 14.7, 10.8 and 7 percent of the total market share respectively,” it said.
Applications of biometrics in government are wide-ranging. Some of them are summarized as follows.
Law enforcement/border control
A major government application of biometrics is law enforcement, whereby law enforcement officers can get the fingerprint of a captured suspect and match it against a central database to see if there are any previous records. Beyond fingerprint, other biometrics can be used as well.
“The FBI more recently developed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) program to support facial recognition and iris recognition. Surveillance footage of a suspect’s face can be compared to a national database of mugshots to establish identity. In 2013, the FBI Iris Pilot also began capturing iris images at correctional facilities to build a database of yet another biometric modality,” said a recent blogpost by AWARE, adding biometrics have border management applications as well.
“Government agencies also use biometrics to verify identity at international borders. In some countries, visa applicants must provide biometric samples to be searched against criminal databases and immigration records,” it said.
A potential problem with government service is a lack of transparency, which may result in unfair distribution of resources, or even corruption. Biometrics can address this issue.
A recent blogpost by M2SYS cited voter registration as an example. “The country of Yemen … deployed biometric technology for accurate voter registration. They were struggling with inaccurate voter registries suffering from the ill effects of duplicate, under-age, and ‘ghost’ voters,” it said, adding that this was the reason Yemen’s Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) was looking for a more efficient voter identification solution to overcome the problems that existed with their current voter registry.
According to AWARE, applicants of US federal jobs must go through background checks to make sure they are not criminals, and again biometrics can help in this regard. “Biometrics enhance identity proofing for employee screening by searching biometric databases using fingerprint face, or iris data,” it said.