Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time for a high tech national ID card?

An identity card is very handy whenever proof of identity is required (e.g. at a bank counter). The problem is that a picture on the card is not good enough to prevent fraud. With biometric technology, it should be fairly easy to replace the traditional ID with a high tech one. A central government could provide the resources to house a database of thumb prints and other unique identifying features such the iris. Whenever an identity check is required, a thumb print (for example) can be immediately dispatched over the internet and validated almost immediately.

This is how the idea will work. Upon recording a person's biometric data, he will be issued an ID by the government. The card will have the usual name, picture and other basic information. In addition it will be able to store a list of accounts that the person has signed up with, thereby doing away with a multitude of cards (no more ugly fat wallets!) The information on the card is only for convenience and will be useless to anyone else. This is because whenever it is used, the person's thumb print will be checked via the internet. Once checked, the name of the person will be sent to the interested party. For example, if I am making a payment by Visa at a shop, the shop owner will have a scanner to read my thumb print, which will be sent out for verification. Upon verifying, the identity of the person will be sent to Visa. Visa will confirm that I have an account that can be operated by me, plus all the other business terms and conditions. The transaction will then be allowed to proceed.

Think about it: one card will be all we need. I am sure 99% of the adult population will welcome the day when one no longer needs to carry a huge, bulging wallet. This will be a simple ID card that nobody can benefit from duplicating or stealing. The card simply provides a basic level of identity, to be used where low level security is tolerated. For critical needs, a biometric check will be carried out. For extremely critical cases, this check can be extended to cover other areas like the iris of the eye, or finger prints of several fingers.

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