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 http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article320003.ece

ID card scanning system riddled with errors

Hi-tech equipment could misidentify one in 1,000 people, say experts

By Marie Woolf, Francis Elliott and Sophie Goodchild

Published: 16 October 2005

One in 1,000 people could be inaccurately identified by the hi-tech scans being planned for national ID cards, experts have warned.

The Government is planning to use face, iris and fingerprint scans to identify people on ID cards. But studies have found that being scanned in the wrong type of light or in shadow could lead to an inaccurate ID, because biometric technology is flawed.

Internal reports for the Government warned that manual labourers whose fingertips are worn or nicked, could find their fingerprints are not recognised. Men who go bald risk being identified as someone else, experts say. Pianists, guitarists and typists - whose fingerprints can be worn down - could also face inaccurate readings.

Government trials have found that the biometrics of black, elderly and disabled people have a higher chance of being incorrectly matched against their true ID. People with eye problems also have a relatively high chance of inaccurate identification.

Fingerprint systems can make errors in the identification of one in 100,000 people, while facial recognition scans have falsely identified one in 1,000 individuals.

Qinetiq, the defence technology company that advises the Government, has warned that biometrics now being used to identify people on a small scale - such as people entering football grounds, office buildings or shopping malls - may be insufficient for a national database of up to 64 million people.

The company, which develops and assesses biometrics, says urgent development work needs to be done before ID cards are rolled out in 2008. It said a biometric scan in the United States failed because it concluded a man who went bald and had a wrinkled forehead had an upside-down face.

On Tuesday, the Government is expected to face a rebellion by MPs when the Commons votes on the ID cards Bill. Around 20 Labour MPs are expected to vote with the Tories and Liberal Democrats against the proposals.

Tomorrow, the Government will hold a "road-show" in the Home Office to demonstrate that the biometric scans work. Sources close to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said the tour of the technology around the country had found little public resistance to biometrics. The Government believes that using a combination of three scans will cut down the risk of inaccurate recognition.

An internal government report, prepared for the Home Office by the consultants Amtec, warned in May 2003 that "no biometric system can ever be 100 per cent accurate". The study identified serious flaws in the technology and said they may not be accepted by the population.

"All biometrics will face some acceptance problems to some degree. Some of the general population do not have the body part (or sufficient quality of the body part) required for measuring any one biometric except face," he said. "Some face-recognition techniques are exposed to instability, in particular because of some people's voluntary change of appearance, the effects of ageing, and differences in illumination between environments."

Why the bald and pianists may fail test

* A bald man with a wrinkled forehead fooled the technology into thinking his face was upside down.

* Manual labourers, pianists, guitarists and people who type a lot can fail scans because their fingerprints are worn down.

* Disabled people have a higher than normal rate of misidentification, as do the elderly and black people.

* People with eye problems more often fail iris scans.

* Accident victims risk failing biometric scans if their physical characteristics change; identical twins can be muddled up because they look too similar.

* Being photographed then scanned in a different light can cause misidentification.