Singapore Becomes First Country To Use Facial Verification For a National ID Service

“Singapore will be the first country in the world to use facial verification in its national identity scheme,” reports the BBC:

The biometric check will give Singaporeans secure access to both private and government services. The government’s technology agency says it will be “fundamental” to the country’s digital economy. It has been trialled with a bank and is now being rolled out nationwide. It not only identifies a person but ensures they are genuinely present. “You have to make sure that the person is genuinely present when they authenticate, that you’re not looking at a photograph or a video or a replayed recording or a deepfake,” said Andrew Bud, founder and chief executive of iProov, the UK company that is providing the technology…

“Face recognition has all sorts of social implications. Face verification is extremely benign,” said Mr Bud. Privacy advocates, however, contend that consent is a low threshold when dealing with sensitive biometric data. “Consent does not work when there is an imbalance of power between controllers and data subjects, such as the one observed in citizen-state relationships,” said Ioannis Kouvakas, legal officer with London-based Privacy International….

GovTech Singapore thinks the technology will be good for businesses, because they can use it without having to build the infrastructure themselves. Additionally, Kwok Quek Sin, senior director of national digital identity at GovTech Singapore, said it is better for privacy because companies won’t need to collect any biometric data. In fact, they would only see a score indicating how close the scan is to the image the government has on file.
In 1993 William Gibson called Singapore “Disneyland with the death penalty… a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore.”

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