A fixed identity is not necessarily a correct identity

The Norwegian Broadcasting morning news today focused on new systems for ensuring that a person is linked to one unique identity by the use of biometrics.
Published: 3/8/2019

(Above: Tone Opdahl is the leader of Norwegian ID Centre. Photo: Jerome Faucheux, Norwegian ID Centre)

Norwegian ID Centre has long been recommending better utilisation and more extensive use of biometrics in public ID management.

The Norwegian Broadcasting morning news today focused on new systems for ensuring that a person is linked to a unique identity by the use of biometrics. Norwegian ID Centre has long been recommending a better and more extensive use of biometrics in public ID management, and in our opinion this would reduce the risk of ID misuse considerably. A person would not so easily be able to live with multiple identities.

 

-However; even if a person’s identity has been fixed, it still doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the correct identity, says leader Tone Opdahl of Norwegian ID Centre.

ID documents with biometric features, like passports and national ID cards, ensure the holder of such a documents access to services, rights and obligations linked to the identity. The problem is that passports and national ID cards are usually issued on the basis of breeder documents that are not equally well protected against falsification or other misuse.

-We constantly see cases where a person presents a genuine passport, technically speaking, along with false breeder documents, says Per Haddal, a head of department at Norwegian ID centre. If the passport has been issued based on such  breeder documents, it will undermine completely the integrity of the passport, because it has been issued under false pretenses.

In other words: Are we sure that the identity originally entered into the registers is a correct one?

-Today, the check performed on enrolment into the various registers is the weakest link of our ID work. This is where we should start our efforts, says Tone Opdahl. We must make sure that the personnel entering such information into a register do have the competence, routines and equipment necessary for ensuring that the identity entered into the system is indeed a person’s correct identity. Once you have acquired a biometrically confirmed false identity you have unrestricted access to all parts of Norwegian society, goes on Tone Opdahl.

There are still several challenges that need to be met on the way towards a more secure ID management in our community. Even with high quality enrolment routines and a secure link to biometrics in the registers the system will still be vulnerable as long as only a few agencies have access to necessary equipment for checking a person against the recorded biometrics. How should ID players be able to tell whether the person in front of them is the same as the person in the registers if they have no equipment to check the biometrics?

There are also a number of judicial, privacy and also technical challenges that need to be met to benefit fully from links between biometrics bases and public registry. This will take both time and money.

For all links in ID work to succeed, we need an overall strengthening of public ID administration. Several reports and evaluations have concluded that public ID management in Norway today is a patchwork of a multitude of system owners, different methods and diverging assessments.

-We need a higher-level agency that can develop common guidelines and routines, high competence and uniform systems, says Tone Opdahl. This will yield higher quality from smaller resources. Therefore, we welcome the upcoming review of the entire ID field, and it is our hope that this process will address these challenges, she concludes.