Broadening the use of biometrics beyond current applications will help to reduce fraud in the public and private sectors, says biometrics multinational HID Global regional sales manager for Africa Claude Langley.
Biometrics is predominantly a fraud- prevention mechanism that is used to manage identity verification. It also provides a nonrefutable audit trail when linked to processes. Biometric data is unique to each user and is a powerful tool that can be used to protect identities, he says.
Biometric technologies are used in industrial, education, healthcare, social security systems and business environments to manage access and authorisation, and have been proven in these and related applications over the past 15 years, highlights Langley.
However, the specific role of biometrics in an organisation and which solutions will be deployed must be determined. A digital identification system can be customised and data selectively shared to fulfil a specific requirement.
For example, with a digital identification system, a person can provide proof of age without having to display names or an identity number, or provide proof of a valid driver’s licence without having to display any other nonrelevant information.
In counterfeited and tampered documents, the biometric data of the identity document holder will not be registered, or it will be different from the enrolled data. For stolen genuine identity documents, biometrics eliminates the possibility of someone using a genuine document that was issued to someone else.
A biometric fingerprint can be stored as an encrypted binary code, which is very difficult to crack without the key and the necessary software to interpret it.
“Digital identity has a big role to play in society as use cases progress and are adopted. This is why HID has invested in its capabilities in this field to specialise in digital identification capabilities.
“Biometric technology is not a silver bullet that can eliminate fraud, but it can reduce a broad range of fraud types, such as business and identity fraud. However, it has not yet been deployed to all suitable industry verticals or government applications,” says Langley.
There are no technical, equipment or infrastructure barriers preventing local companies and government organisations from using biometric systems. The components comply with local and are international security regulations and the data must be protected according to privacy and data protection laws.
Banks in South Africa have deployed certain biometric capabilities and facilities and are moving towards extending their use to automatic teller machines (ATMs). Biometric technologies have successfully been deployed to Brazilian ATMs and more recently have been introduced in banks and financial services, he says.
Biometric systems are mature enough to cater for most business environments. Certain industries have been granted access to the Department of Home Affairs’ databases and access is becoming more available for use in different verticals, concludes Langley.