Do I Know you? Pending debts of modern identification systems

In contemporary civilized society, knowing the identity of each citizen is essential. How would the laws be maintained if there was no criminal record? What about the educational system? Imagine students could change their name on entrance exams. How do you open a bank account, or give a credit to someone you cannot identify? This why identification systems exist.

Identification systems are usually managed by countries. In some cases, documents that endorse a person’s identity are issued by regional institutions, for instance United States driver’s licenses.

But, in general, it is the Governments that have the responsibility of granting a form of validation of people’s identity. Document that is not always valid to travel or request certain rights in other territories. An ID or a green card does not have the same prerogatives as a passport, for example. Moreover, none of these documents contains a large body of information related to the person. If they had such information, it could help them a navigate the seas of bureaucracy still prevailing these days.

Don’t you think that in a globalized world you can aspire to a more democratic and social global system of identification that’s independent of governments? It doesn’t exist yet, but it won’t take long. Meanwhile, learn a little more about the identification systems around us today.

Identification systems: a pending subject?

Around 100 countries have legislated the obligation to issue identity documents to their citizens. At the same time, the law obliges people to carry these document at all times. Which is reasonable, then authorized personnel could require it in various circumstances.

Not all identity documents issued by national States are of the same nature or have the same validity in other territories or specific situations. For example, an ID from any of the countries of the European Union is valid if you want to move through any of the territories of that regional community.

To travel, you often need to have a passport. Unless you are a European citizen and want to travel within the same Community. Photo by Barbara Maier on Unsplash

However, not all that shines is gold. One of the big problems in this regard is that, since the issuance and management of identity documents is processed by countries, not all of them have a modern identification system. Because of this the situation of people regarding their identity worldwide is highly variable.

In another post, we analyzed the fundamental problems faced by people, who lack a document or endorsement that identifies them.

The cost of manufacturing the documents is minor problem

According to this World Bank study, based on the experience of 15 countries, the cost of manufacturing identification cards varies from 3 to 40% with respect to the total cost of maintaining an identification system. However today everything has a digital perspective: a “paper” document (any sort of physical document per se) has numerous limitations and risks.

The first limitation? A physical document rarely allows anything more than identifying yourself, especially if it does not have a QR code or any other element that can link you to the digital level.

The most ancient risk? Forgery. In some countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, identity forgery has been a recurring phenomenon at certain times, especially among teenagers who want to have the right to consume alcohol or to go to nightclubs before the age of 21, according to this piece of The Guardian.

It gets harder and harder to forge identity documents in countries that have been improving their systems using biometric elements. But there are others where the protocol still has security flaws. So it is risky to say that the problem has disappeared.

Biometrics, a key component in identification systems

With the aim of promoting the implementation of more digital, secure and useful identity systems for people, the World Bank has a States advisory program to design and implement new identification systems.

In the studies carried out, they discovered that biometrics is an aspect still to be improved, and an essential one to create physical mechanisms that ratify a person’s singularity. 60% of the analyzed systems were based on one single biometric element…fingerprints.

Only 40% of studied cases use various biometric modalities: fingerprint, plus iris recognition and facial recognition. Combining various modalities of biometric identification is the best choice; some aspects may obscure, for example, the capture of fingerprints. This is most noticeable in countries and regions with large populations of people doing manual labor.

Achieving an international standard prevails

The aforementioned World Bank study also demonstrated that the integration between the identification systems and the civil records mechanisms of the States results in greater savings in resources in both entities.

The process of identifying and registering citizens must be unitary, but also integrated with many aspects of daily life: health care, electronic payments, tax management and other aspects of public administration. To achieve this, it would require very comprehensive identification systems, with a lot of information and instantaneousness, only possible in countries with high development and connectivity. A good example is Estonia, whose citizens can carry out all kinds of procedures online, except buying a property or marrying someone.

The World Bank and other organizations have initiatives to help standardize modern identification systems to all countries. But it will be difficult to create the necessary infrastructure and achieve an agreement between so many countries and governments.

Today, it is imperative to create an intermediate option, a decentralized system, independent of national administrations, managed through mathematical models and high-level computer trends that process information provided by the main component of any identification system: the individual.

FySelf team is working on that identification system. Get in touch if you want to know more … and stay tunned.

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