Singapore is Pushing Facial Verification as National ID

The Philippines is rolling out its own national ID system, already starting pre-registration this October according to the Philippines Statistics Authority. Things are different and more advanced in neighboring country Singapore – they plan to have a new national ID system that involves the face.

What is called to be the world’s first to use facial verification as citizens’ identification, it is faced with protest by those who feel that this is, in various ways, an intrusive system that is vulnerable to abuse.

By 2021, the target is to have all residents in Singapore register to the facial ID system. It involves capturing a series of photos of a person’s face under different lights. Then it will be matched and integrated with the available data with current government ID an systems including passports, tax authority, and the city’s pension fund.

Through using the face only, people in the city-state will have access to government agencies and banking services, among others. Proponents of this national ID scheme believe this is more convenient since no one will ever have to remember a password or answer security questions anymore. All they have to do is show their face.

Photo via Techxplore

Singapore has its own technology agency GovTech. Its employee, Kwok Quek Sin who is part of its digital identification efforts says, “We want to be innovative in applying technology for the benefit of our citizens and businesses.”

Lee Sea Lin of Toppan Ecquaria, a digital consultancy firms working with GovTech to implement the technology, shares that there are safeguards to ensure the process is secure. “We want to have assurance that the person behind the device is a real person… and that it is not an image or a video,” he said.

Still, people in Singapore are worried. Data like this could easily end up in tracking and profiling people without their consent.

Nonetheless, facial verification is not a new technology, as Apple and Google are already using them to unlock phones and make payments. But this attempt by Singapore is the first to attach facial verifications to a national identification database.

Do you think this should push through?

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