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National Identity Card

National Identity Card

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Published by LouCypher
Proposal for a National Identity Card
Proposal for a National Identity Card

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Published by: LouCypher on Dec 16, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/12/2011

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There are two key points concerning fingerprinting that are likely to compromise the
government’s objectives. The first is that the proposed system is not “universal”. A
significant number of people will not be able to use it. The GAO report concluded that
the fingerprints of about 2 to 5 percent of people cannot be captured “because the
fingerprints are dirty or have become dry or worn from age, extensive manual labor, or
exposure to corrosive chemicals”.

These findings are supported by the biometrics industry. BarclayCard has conceded that
trials with fingerprint biometrics proved them too unreliable as a means of verifying
identity. People who had recently used hand cream created serious problems for the
fingerprint readers, as did people with particularly hard or calloused skin, such as chefs,
gardeners and labourers.

The GAO report raises other concerns that challenge the universality proposition for
biometrics. It advises that comparative biometric testing has shown that “certain ethnic
and demographic groups (elderly populations, manual laborers, and some Asian
populations) have fingerprints that are more difficult to capture than others.”

Error rates in fingerprinting are both significant, and poorly understood. According to a
recent review106

of available systems, only a handful of products achieved an equal error
rate of under 3%, and the performance of most was much worse. Furthermore, it would
be hazardous and risky for governments to lock their core infrastructure into a single
proprietary product while both attack and defence are evolving rapidly.

According to one expert, our understanding of fingerprints “is dangerously flawed and
risks causing miscarriages of justice”.107

Amongst the numerous cases of mistaken
identification through fingerprinting, that of Brandon Mayfield is indicative of the many
problems in assessment and interpretation of fingerprint data.

Following the Madrid Bombings of March 11, 2004, Spanish National Police managed
to lift a fingerprint from an unexploded bomb. Three highly skilled FBI fingerprint
experts declared that Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield's fingerprint was a match to the
crime scene sample. U.S. officials described the match as “absolutely incontrovertible”
and a “bingo match”. As a former U.S. soldier, Mayfield’s fingerprint was on the
national fingerprint system. Mayfield was imprisoned for two weeks. The fingerprint,
however, was not his. According to one law professor,

“The Mayfield misidentification also reveals the danger that
extraneous knowledge might influence experts' evaluations. If any of
those FBI fingerprint examiners who confidently declared the match
already knew that Mayfield was himself a convert to Islam who had

106

Fingerprint Verification Competition 2004, Open Category Results: Average results over all databases,
Preliminary results, http://bias.csr.unibo.it/fvc2004/results.asp.

107

‘The Achilles' Heel of Fingerprints’, J.L. Mnookin, Washington Post, May 29, 2004.

The LSE Identity Project Interim Report: March 2005

51

once represented a convicted Taliban sympathizer in a child custody
dispute, this knowledge may have subconsciously primed them to
"see" the match. ... No matter how accurate fingerprint identification
turns out to be, it cannot be as perfect as they claim.”108

When Mayfield’s personal information was combined with the crime scene evidence,
the FBI was convinced of his culpability. Yet according to a recent panel of experts,
they were wrong.109

As the collection of biometric information increases, and as it
moves from law enforcement to civilian applications, the error rate may significantly
increase.

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