Beyond Biometrics: I am who I say I am

by | Feb 1, 2020 | Identity |

Sometimes I get ask how you can know the person in front of you is the person on the piece of identification they present. At the moment, many within the humanitarian sector (and outside the humanitarian sector) seem to default to biometrics being the only valid solution.

Whenever we hear ‘the only solution’, we should question it. Biometrics is definitely an option, but there are other equally valid options. And often we need to consider appropriateness (I can use a Rolls Royce to go to the corner shop, but walking is more appropriate given it is only 100m away).

In the Canadian government’s Guideline on Identity Assurance various options are clearly laid out and articulated. Below I have included information from one of the tables in section 3.6 which outlines different ways we can link the identity information to the real person in front of us – thereby reducing fraud.

Knowledge-based confirmation

  • Static knowledge-based confirmation: Use of personal information previously collected or established at a specific point in time (e.g., during a registration process).
  • Dynamic knowledge-based confirmation: Use of personal information collected or generated over a period of time (as opposed to a specific point in time).

Biological or behavioural characteristic confirmation

  • Facial comparison: Manual facial comparison between evidence of identity and the presenting individual, or the use of automated facial recognition.
  • Iris comparison: Comparison of iris patterns of an individual’s eyes using previously collected templates.
  • Fingerprint comparison: Comparison of the physical structure of an individual’s fingerprint for recognition purposes.
  • Voice comparison: Detection and comparison of spoken words with a previously collected voice print.
  • Signature comparison: Comparison of the signature provided by an individual with a signature associated with evidence of identity.
  • Data analytics: Use of previously collected information to identify characteristics, trends or behaviours that are attributable to the individual.

Trusted referee confirmation

  • Guarantor: An individual who has agreed to be responsible for confirming information provided by the individual.
  • Notary: A licensed person or organization that has the authority to administer oaths and attest to signatures in relation to legal documents.
  • Certified agent: An individual who has been approved to vouch for, or act on behalf of, an individual.

Physical possession confirmation

  • Physical demonstration of control: An individual physically demonstrates the exclusive possession or control of a secure document or physical object (e.g., token) that was previously issued to the individual:
    • In the case of a secure document, confirmation may involve the submission for examination of security features or validation of the document; and
    • In the case of a secure physical object, confirmation may involve a secure interaction with a physical or electronic validation process.
  • In either case, these processes may require the physical presence of the individual, but this requirement would not preclude the possibility of remotely enabled physical demonstration processes.

Photo by Kyle Glenn


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