back to article Collar the lot of us! The biometric delusion

Until the 16th century, educated opinion, as codified by Ptolemy, held that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. Then along came Copernicus. On 29 June 2009, the Identity & Passport Service (IPS) published their latest paper on the National Identity Service (NIS). According to Safeguarding Identity (pdf), "the vision …


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  1. Mike Richards

    Why do politicians like biometrics?

    Easy - they don't understand it in the slightest and are easily reeled in by lobbyists. When you throw in a Home Office that's been gagging to introduce ID cards since the early 1970s, you have an unequalled opportunity for companies to sell snake oil.

    Biometrics is one of those technologies politicians can't help but embrace no matter what - along with 'fast breeder reactor', 'supersonic', and worst of all 'computerised'.

    Now if you excuse me, I'm coming up to the ramp for the Concept Boulevard.

  2. Onoria

    Bringing down those odds

    I agree with the above figures regarding the number of false positives. However, it is possible to mitigate these. Say for example you use 3 different forms of biometric id (eye, face & fingerprint). It is then possible to compare the returned (possibly) false positive to one or both of the other forms of bio id.

    I am totally against the whole idea of the ID's. Im just saying that there is a way around the issue of false positives. Of course this would involve a much larger database and taking more civil liberties away from people. But what the hell. How can we stop them.....?

    Vote for the Pirate Party :)

  3. MarcF

    A title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Fascinating read, thanks for that.

    I fail to see how facial recognition systems could work for something as important as National Security. The human brain is the best facial recognition system in existence and yet I sometimes fail to see how I could have spotted the girl I woke up to after a night on the lash and recognised her as being worthy of taking home.

    Mine's a pale stout girl...I mean ale...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder.......

    what would happen if I just stopped identifying myself full stop and only used cash for any transaction I might make?

    Apart from the obvious times when it might be necessary to identify myself using official means (mortgage, bank account) Would my life be better or worse? Perhaps better methinks.

    If they wanted to tie biometrics into monetary transactions, that is probably what I would do.

  5. John G Imrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Mobile phones as IT

    Well you can use them as a travel document on National Express coaches so why not.

    The only problem being that you don't have to prove who you are to get one / get another one in the first place

    BB Icon for obvious reasons

  6. Nomen Publicus

    hope over experience?

    Of course none of this disaster is of any use in the first place. A suicide bomber may well pass even 100% accurate detection systems because s/he has no previous criminal record.

    The 9/11 and 7/7 participants all had valid IDs or were home grown terrorists and no amount of biometrics would have prevented their actions.


  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Talk of biometrics is irrelevant

    Turning their quote back on them

    >underpinning interactions and transactions between individuals, public services and businesses and supporting people to protect their identity"

    Now, unless each individual whose transaction is being "underpinned" just happens to have a gizmo capable of reading a card's biometric data, all you have is a laminated piece of card with a photo on it. Even if (somehow) a private citizen is capable of - or allowed to - read the information about someone else's fizzog, they still have to decide if what the card tells them actually looks like the person holding it.

    What will then happen is baddies will start carrying an ID-card "lite", which is just the laminated card - sans biometrics, with whoever's name and details they choose. These can be used to exploit the trusting nature of the general population, while allowing them a full getaway as any of their victims will be able to recount to the cops (if they are even the slightest bit interested, or turn up at all), the identity as was written on the bogus card. Having been lulled in to a false sense of security, that "it's a government issued ID card - it must be all right".

    So the only people who might, just, be able to use all this wonderful tech. are government agencies, including the police. I would hazard a guess that very soon, failure to produce an ID card will become an offence with a fixed penaly attached - say £50. Which is enough to make it worth collecting, but too little for victims to risk the costs of asking for proper justice through the courts.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's moronic

    “Biometric methods do not offer 100% certainty of authentication of individuals”

    Nobody will put people through a biometric scan every time they ask for an ID, so the biometric stuff is nonsense. not 30% nonsense, 100% nonsense. They don't even look at the picture on the card now, FFS! Do you think we're going to do a biometric check each time? Especially when the biometric has such a high fail rate that it doesn't actually tell you much with any reliability. Computer says 'maybe'.

    So even if you had 100% perfect test, it is 100% imperfect at detecting fraud.

    Worse still, the data can be accessed, so before you had a physical card and to clone it you needed to make an electronic version of that physical card. For example you have to scan the image on the card, which was difficult at best given the nature of printing colour. Then after having the electronic form, you needed to make the new fake card.

    But they added some ill conceived biometric chip full of easy to copy, NAPSTER friendly data, making the first part of the cloning process a lot easier. That International standard they refer to has a scan of the picture on it, not one way biometrics!

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Would it be too much trouble to assemble the House of Commons and present this to them (in single syllable words if necessary)?

    Perhaps the final PowerPoint slide could simply read "THIS WILL NOT WORK. EVER."

  10. Stuart Catt

    Good article but...

    you need to reduce it to word of one syllable so the politicians can understand

  11. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Too much egg?

    "To prove that each [of 60 million people] is represented by a unique electronic identity on the population register, each biometric would have to be compared with all the rest. That would involve making 1.8 x 10^15 comparisons.

    Bollocks - I think - except in the most improbable worst case. Hash the identity and do a sort, then look for consecutive duplicates. Quicksort is O(nlogn)... do the math.

  12. Maria Helm

    current technology is not mature enough

    It sounds to me like the problem is not that it would be impossible to use biometrics, but that the current technology for it is not mature enough. It is the reliability of the technology used to record and to check the biometrics that poses the problem. Perhaps it is a problem that could be fixed by making it record more points, or be more sensitive. Or maybe we find ways to measure multiple biometrics, or different biometrics, to obtain more reliable results. Then the assertion that you could use biometrics for a national identity system becomes more likely.

    However, the issue of scale, as mentioned in the beginning of the article, is still problematic. And the problem is not just that so many people would need to be loaded into the system, but also that so many "individuals, public services and businesses" would be using the system constantly for so many transactions. We're either talking about one massive supercomputer, or one huge network. It's not going to be something that one could download and run onsite. And if you're not connected for some reason (ie local power/network outage), then it ceases to work completely, and you either stop making money or go back to the old system.

    The author asks "do politicians and civil servants all over the world continue to advocate the use of biometrics when the evidence simply doesn’t support them?" The answer is because your biometrics are very, very much harder to fake or steal than a passport, driver license, or any other current ID method. Even if you consider that someone could potentially hack into the system and swap your data with theirs to assume your identity, this is still a lot harder to do. But even then, we have to get the security right on multiple levels to prevent hacks and abuses.

    The bottom line is not that it is impossible, but simply that the current technology is not mature enough.

  13. janimal
    Black Helicopters

    Media collusion

    You know this, I know this, many statisticians, mathematicians, techies and geeks know this. What we actually need is some trusted (ha!) media organisation, like say the beeb, to explain it to the rest.

    It's not enough for newsnight or channel 4 news to ask a few questions. It's not enough for it to be discussed on sites only read by those who already have no faith in the system.

    It needs to be broadcast on 'The One Show' (I can't believe people actually watch that crap) or watchdog.

    Spending billions on this whole useless system is surely scandalous enough for some primetime TV coverage?

    They're all in it together I tell you!

  14. Fred 1


    My stepson works in cafe nero. Recently he was telling me that in order to serve alcohol he has to ID anyone who looks under 25, which was previously 21. Obviously there is no attempt in progress to drum up demand for useless ID cards.

  15. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge


    Is using fully automated facial biometrics already. Flew in there the other day and was surprised to see an unmanned booth as an option. It worked, so obviously on the way out I tried to scrunch my face up as much as possible to defeat it. It still worked.

    Next time I go I'll trade passports "acciedentally" with a friend on the plane and try it again :-)

  16. Paul 4

    But what can they be used for?

    I have seen 3 major reasos they say you could use an ID card

    1) Crossing a border. Woop. Thats what a passport is for. Yes they want to stick biometrics in these, but if it was just in these people woul dhave less of a problem, but they still don't work. Personaly I refuse to fly now. Id rather overland unless I realy cant avoid flying.

    2) Proving your ID for work. Again a pasport works well for this, and how is biometrics going to help with this? Are they giving every company in the country a card reader? I realy can't see how this will make any diffrence. Illigal workers will stil get the same work they do now.

    3) So you dont have to carry several forms of ID with you. The only time I know of when you have to do this is for credit agrements, which require (Under the consumer credit act) 2 forms of ID, and somthing to prove your address (3 is best practice). One should be photo ID (Passport or driving licence is normal) and the other should be somthing that proves your address I.E. a bill. An ID card dose not prove this, just as a driving licence dose not, as they may not be up to date, but you can be sure someone is not paying for gas at a property they do not live at.

    Please tell me what use they are.

  17. RichardB


    "The answer is because your biometrics are very, very much harder to fake or steal than a passport, driver license, or any other current ID method."

    Except that your biometrics are going to be collected and stored by - and the card issued by - a high st retailer.

    Given that at this point you can purchase an almost legit passport/driving license from sources in the agencies (according to various reports and court cases), how will you establish your initial identification to the card retailer?

    On top of that - how will they prevent you obtaining more than one Id card?

    Who do you want to be today?

  18. Trevor Pearson


    All we need to do is tattoo a bar code on peoples forehead, barcodes are much easier to read using available technology, and you can spot if they've been tampered with. As a backup we could repeat the tattoo on the right hand.

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    But ...

    Pragmatically, I think, as a government and society, we'll be better off with letting it go ahead than having it aborted.

    We should stop complaining, suck it up, put aside it costing us all a small fortune, that it will be an unmitigated fiasco and disaster, buy "told you so" T-shirts, wait for roll-out, bask in the glory of epic failure when it looms large, and reflect on how Poll Tax played its part in bringing down Thatcher.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Julian I-Do-Stuff

    But the main point is about the false match and false reject rate, not the processing method. That still stands, huh?

  21. mmiied

    2 or more fingers

    call me sill but how dose taking the prints of more fingers make it more likley to give corect readings eather you have to only match 1 or the majority (3/5) in witch case you make it more likley for faules positives or you have to match all in witch case you make it more likley to be rejected

  22. Richard 12 Silver badge


    You've missed the point.

    They aren't talking about the computational difficulty of doing the comparisons, they're talking about the probability of any two records having the same value.

    For the system to prove identity, not only must every single record be unique (they won't be), but every comparison with the data read from an individual must *also* *always* match their record *and others*

    Which makes the whole concept a terrible farce. It would be funny if they hadn't already wasted more than £5,000,000,000 on it.

  23. Mike 61

    I thought

    That we were all supposed to get tattoos on our hands or foreheads to identify us. End of days and all that trite.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward 12:57

    sadly we will soon see the demise of cash. It has long been argued by banks et. al. that cash is very expensive to print, store, transport and recount etc. "expensive" as in "eats into our profit margins" and "reduces bonus potential". So, when the lobbyists apply preasure in that area we won't see good 'ol cash any more and will each carry 'digital credits' about our person, on phones and other devices. Don't worry, it will all be perfectly safe, cos we'll have biometric ID cards to prove who we is, init. So start hoarding beans and other sundry tokens now !

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Talk of biometrics is irrelevant

    You are, of course, 100% right which means that it your point will just be ignored unless we send each MP and each candidate in the next election his personal copy. In words of 4 letters or less.

  26. tobyo

    Re: Too much egg?

    Yeah, I thought the same at first but I think in suggesting a hash, you're assuming that the biometric will generate the same one each tiime --- and this is the problem --- our physical characteristics change enough over time that if you record too much information (and generate a hash based on it), then the hash is different each time your biometric is scanned, but if you take less information, then different individual's biometrics generate the same hash and you get collisions... and this is yet another reason why the whole thing can't work.

  27. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    @Too much egg: I actually do pattern recognition

    I am afraid Julian might do stuff, but he does not understand how matching works. Almost all biometrics encode a series of spatial relationships between features. These relationships are rarely completely rotation or scale invariant (i.e. they depend on pose, camera angle etc.), therefore, you cannot map each set of parameters to a single number which you then sort. Instead, you need to match the multivariate data using some distance measure. If the distance is too large, we have a mismatch.

    Iris patterns are a good example. Rather than coding to a unique number, you need to verify that the hamming distance between the two sets of bit patterns fails a test for statistical independence. Because the iris might be recorded in a slightly different orientation each time, you need to compute the hamming distances for a series of shifted combinations, and take the smallest distance to indicate the correlation.

    Thus 1.8 x 10^15 is correct.

    I agree with the author: the scheme is doomed to failure

    There is an explanation for the politicians' and civil servants' behaviour: the usual inability for managerial types to admit they are WRONG. They consider every u-turn as loss of face. Difficult for good scientists to fathom (hallmark of bad scientist: not admitting you are wrong!), but true nonetheless.

  28. Dan Sheppard
    Paris Hilton

    Good figures

    This kind of failure rate isn't nearly as worrying as a lower one. At this level, if the state insist on being moronic and we've done our duty and informed them of the problems, we can all sit back at a reasonable distance and watch the fireworks.

    It would be much worse with better performance: in that case some unlucky sods would end up triggering the false-positives/negatives and be imprisoned or whatever, and no one really care.

    At such a high rate, there's a fair chance that someone who people care about, like Ferne Cotton, or Piers Morgan, or whats-his-face from /Cash in the Attic/, get hit, and then it's skipping straight along the "chaos strikes British Airports" road on any slow news day.

  29. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    NuLabour seems to be divided between the gullible and the manipulatively deceitful. Or are they all deceitful and they just hope enough of us are the gullible, to keep believing what they keep saying.

    Either way, the end result is the same, so the more they keep forcing ever more monitoring and control on us, the more its time to play them at their own game and force open monitoring on them. They work for us and we pay for them.

    What's even more scary, is if they actually believe their own PR that its 100% certainty of authentication of individuals. Because as soon as stolen or forged cards are used in crimes, they will be coming knocking on our doors and dragging us away to lock us up!

    So yet another day and yet another step towards the nightmare world we are all being dragged into. :(

  30. Anonymous Coward

    re : Alan Johnson photo

    I note that the card he is brandishing is only a specimen.

    What's the matter Alan, don't you carry a real one?

  31. Jon Axtell


    Look closely at Alan Johnson's ID card in the photo on the first page. It has SAMPLE written on it. So he is NOT an early adopter.

  32. Knowledge
    Black Helicopters

    Their behaviour is inexplicable.

    What if politicians all over the world are so keen because they've all been told that this level of control WILL happen; and that they'd better get the public used to the idea, whether the technology is there or not??

    Would that explain it?

  33. J. Cook Silver badge

    My take on biometrics...

    I used to work in a place that had a handprint scanner with a PIN code along with the more traditional proximity card/picture badge for access control into a secured area. (a true three-factor system)

    One day I was amused to see two co-workers of mine (identical twins) go up to the door. One put his hand in the reader and put in his brother's PIN code for the scanner, and the other one badged the door open. All four of us (myself, the twins, and the dude in the security booth) were surprised that it worked.

    I don't see biometrics being anything but a secondary verification method- Too high of a failure rate. Fingerprint readers are notoriously finicky, retinal scanners are an unknown (I've yet to run across one, so my only assumption is that they have a worse success rate then fingerprint scanners or disgustingly expensive), and DNA scanners are still a figment of the Sci-fi writer's imagination.

  34. /dev/me


    Pete2: "I would hazard a guess that very soon, failure to produce an ID card will become an offence with a fixed penaly attached - say £50."

    Nothing new in the Netherlands. I live a life of crime because I sometimes don't carry my wallet when I go out for a walk. One of these days I might bring myself in. I've never been asked for my ID though; I look boring ;-)


    Well, anyway, BIG government projects NEVER get pulled. They may know it's a bad idea wasting billions decades before fruition, but politicians never back out.

  35. Rolf Howarth

    I'm no fan of ID cards but...

    there seem to be a few flaws with this argument. Not being 100% accurate doesn't prevent automatic biometric matching being useful:

    1. Automatic recognition won't be used to search a user's biometric details against the ENTIRE database but will be used to validate it against a specific ID card... an almost infinitely easier problem.

    2. At places like passport control, the system will presumably be set up to allow 99.5% of people for whom there's a good enough match against their ID card through automatically. The others won't be arrested but will involve a passport officer manually checking their details.

    3. Likewise, if the system flags up one person's biometrics as being suspiciously close to an existing record, that will just be flagged up for manual inspection.

    Still no fan of ID cards though. A huge waste of public money and ever more encroachment of my civil liberties.


  36. Martin 6 Silver badge

    Biometrics could work

    The problem with biometrics is using silly things like iris or fingerprints. What you really need to use is the gene sequence - thats pretty much unique for everyone except twins.

    You can now sequence a human genome in about a month on a machine that only costs $1M. Ok so it might mean a bit of wait at the bar everytime you need to prove your age or at the tube when you use your oyster card - but this is necessary to stop terrorism/child pornography/aligators in the high st/ etc.

  37. John Sager

    @Michael Wilkinson

    Your last comment hits the nail squarely on the head, and the problem is as much ours as the politicians. We shout 'yah-boo-sucks' when they get it wrong, and the tabloids amplify that shout by about 130dB. That's hard for even the most egoless nerd to take, and our decision-makers are not generally noted for a lack of ego.

    Having said that though, the attitude of the IPS and the government generally cannot entirely be put down to loss of face concerns. I suspect they don't actually care what the statistics look like. They assume putative terrorists don't read this stuff and will be scared off by the Security Theatre, as Bruce Schneier so aptly calls it.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Portugal, try a carrot

    "It worked, so obviously on the way out I tried to scrunch my face up as much as possible to defeat it. It still worked."

    I have an open door, it works 100% of the time, I scrunch my face up as much as possible, but the door was still open! The door works!

    My point being, to work, the Portuguese unit has to reject the fakes and accept the real ones. I reckon from it's method of working it is using height + distance between eyes as the main two biometrics. Which means false positives are the most likely outcome.

    On the early trials it failed repeatedly which was blamed on calibration, so I reckon they loosened up the tolerances a lot to let a lot more people through. False negatives complain, but false positives, they tend to you walk through and try not to make a fuss!

    With the new card cloning, it will make faking this machine a lot easier, even if you tightened it up completely.

    As ever the test for security is to put it out for proper challenge and proper security testing. Just like voting machine vendors claimed their voting machines are perfect..... and shock-horror it turns out to be trivial to change the vote. Just like every single piece of software in the world goes out perfect and gets ripped full of security holes when under close public scrutiny.

    But hey, THIS time it will be different and it will work first time without the scruitiny. Yet they won't let it out of the airport, so nobody can show how easy it is to defeat legally.

    You still see politicians claiming that a stock chinese touch panel can tell the difference between a dead finger cut off a body and a live finger.....they don't know about capacitance screens even! (Try operating your iPod with a plastic pen, doesn't work, now try with a carrot... works, that's a capacitive screen, the juicy carrot and your body form one plate of a capacitor).

    It's like Government is full of rubes and having been sold a dud they have to pretend its great!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can only comment from experience of the US fingerprint verifying system. So far it has worked for me. However, my wife failed easily at O'Hare, the reason given was, dirt on the reading screen! She was one of many! We have a friend who has no fingerprints---genetic anomaly. She creates havoc going through US immigration, don't get into her queue! The concept looks good, but it's difficult to beat the effiency of the standard passport for the normal passenger. The reality of detecting the random unwanted person seems difficult to achieve at official border entry points, they'll simply go for the quiet unauthorised entry via a sea/land route, which seem to be easily achievable. I understand that some airlines now verify their repeat passengers identity before flying. This seems a logical step forward.

  40. Dennis

    Re: @Too much egg: I actually do pattern recognition

    I agree it's doomed to fail. And the tests continue to confirm this.

    However, it may be possible to reduce the 1.8 x 10^15 comparisons figure.

    This assumes that it is necessary to compare every biometric with every other. If the chosen biometric has different groups that don't overlap then you only need to compare within the one group. If fingerprints could be unambiguously assigned the classification "arch", "loop" or "whorl" then you would only need to compare within the same classification. There would be no point in making a comparison between a "whorl" and anything in the "arch" or "loop" sets.

    But the scanning technology doesn't work reliably (yet). And I doubt if it's possible to unambiguously assign fingerprints to a classification. When does an "arch" become a "loop"?

  41. D Moss Esq

    Maria Helm Posted Friday 14th August 2009 13:35 GMT

    Ms Helm, you say:

    "... maybe we find ways to measure multiple biometrics, or different biometrics, to obtain more reliable results. Then the assertion that you could use biometrics for a national identity system becomes more likely ... The bottom line is not that it is impossible, but simply that the current technology is not mature enough."

    I think that is correct. No single, practical biometric suitable for mass consumer use is known. The "hope" is that some combination of biometrics might deliver usable reliability. So far, there is no known composite biometric either, please see

    That is the "bottom line". Schemes like the National Identity Service and eBorders are proceeding in the full knowledge that the biometrics they depend on are not available. Call it "delusion" or "fantasy", whatever, it isn't rational, scientific, businesslike or responsible.

  42. D Moss Esq

    Julian I-Do-Stuff Posted Friday 14th August 2009 13:36 GMT


    Uou say:

    "To prove that each [of 60 million people] is represented by a unique electronic identity on the population register, each biometric would have to be compared with all the rest. That would involve making 1.8 x 10^15 comparisons.

    Bollocks - I think - except in the most improbable worst case. Hash the identity and do a sort, then look for consecutive duplicates. Quicksort is O(nlogn)... do the math.


    What you outline is an algorithm for finding matches. It may be a jolly good algorithm. But it says nothing about the number of matches you will find, nor does it help to distinguish the genuine matches from the false ones.

    Professor Daugman's argument lives, therefore, to fight another day. The number of false matches is so great that it is not feasible to say that everyone has one and only one identity recorded on the population register. Not with populations like the 60 million of us in the UK, 600 million in the EU and 6 billion in the world.

    NIST had a lot of trouble proving uniqueness in a population of 6 million, please see You might approach them with your hashing function, they could be grateful ...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Whether ID cards actually work (in the technical sense) or not, they are still really useful for power crazed bureaucrats with an inflated sense of their own importance.

    I predict some unpleasant times ahead..

  44. Keith T

    This guy doesn't seem to know about programming or the efficiency of algorithms

    "Suppose that there were 60 million UK ID cardholders. To prove that each person is represented by a unique electronic identity on the population register, each biometric would have to be compared with all the rest. That would involve making 1.8 x 1015 comparisons."

    There are algorithms that are far far more efficient than that. Here are two examples:

    1. You could categorize the individual sample and only compare it with other samples in the same categories. For example, brown eyes wide nose. You'd only compare a face like that with other faces in the same categories.

    2. Create a hash key from each sample and store the keys in sorted order. Compare the individual sample only to samples with the same hash key.

  45. Keith T

    The question is whether biometric is better than what we've got

    The question is not whether biometric identification is perfect or politicians and sales people make stupid claims. We know the answer to those questions are false and true.

    The question is whether biometric is better than what we've got: (1) Security guards looking at tiny photos; (2) Bank clerks looking at signatures; (3) Typed in computer passwords; (4) ID cards with chips in wallets or on lanyards around necks.

    We can add a second LED to the finger print scanner and collect the finger prints in 3D.

    With faster CPU chips than we had in 2004, we can use more complex matching algorithms.


    How were these techniques ever regarded as adequate?

    (1) Security guards looking at tiny photos; (2) Bank clerks looking at signatures; (3) Typed in computer passwords; (4) ID cards with chips in wallets or on lanyards around necks.

    They were adequate because we do not actually need 100% accuracy in ID.

    A person may find a photo ID card, but will they look like the ID on the card they find? probably not. Signatures are not perfect, so banks just refund the money when an error occurs. ID cards can be lost, but they are seldom found by malicious people.

  46. Lou Gosselin

    Diagrams not very readable.

    I couldn't make out the words in many of the figures in this article. Even when I looked very closely it was difficult to discern most of the text.

    Of course I see that the register's horizontally squashed layout doesn't allow for larger diagrams, but it would be appropriate to add a link to display the image in a proper size.

    While I'm at it, I'd like to point out to the register's web design team that while the article text is 580px wide, 1100px remain as unused whitespace (at least on my 1680x1050 wide screen monitor).

    Even on a 1024x800 monitor (which seems to be optimal for your website), the article only displays on 57% of the screen. So it's not that there isn't enough room, it's that the current layout is fundamentally problematic.

  47. Keith T

    This 3 month ordeal in Kenya is why we need biometrics

    This is why we need biometrics:

    "... Suaad Hagi Mohamud, 31, had been unable to leave Kenya since May, when authorities said her lips did not look the way they did in her four-year-old passport photo. ..."

    The question is, who to make biometrics better than what we have now, which is a single 1 inch photo taken up to 10 years ago.

    In the USA, the fact that their DHS uses names to filter terrorism suspects means thousands of people with similar names are pointlessly hassled for hours each year.

    How many false positives do you get matching names in the UK? Probably tens of thousands in Wales alone.

    @Richard 12: Take another look at page 2 of the article.

    Julian is correct. The article is talking about the number of comparisons and using the worst possible algorithm to make the calculation..

    If your premise were true that he was trying to calculate the minimum number of digits to hold unique values for each resident of the UK the article would be even more inaccurate. The size of number required to hold 65,000,000 distinct values is only 8 decimal digits.

    @RichardB, MariaHelm makes valid points.

    The article assumes technology never advances and it assumes if perfection cannot be attained there is no point in making an improvement.

    What we need for now is something better than what we have now. Achieving perfection is always something for the future.

  48. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Egg on face

    Points nicely taken...

    Self fail

  49. Columbus
    Big Brother

    SC clearance = RFID

    Simple - what will happen is SC or Military people will have RFID chips, then Police, doctors etc, without the chip they don't work, other biometrics are set to high level of accuracy, people will then want the RFID to ease access to the NHS, or benefits, Prisoners have the chip automatically, removal of the chip is an imprisonable offence etc

    Big Brother - of course

  50. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Still dripping...

    Post 1 - Not enough caffeine

    Post 2 - Too much wine?

    3rd time lucky?

    @Michael H.F. Wilkinson - Re matching, granted. But I was limiting my point to the determination of uniqueness of records... whatever initial set of biometrics are obtained (as opposed to subsequent measurements for *identification*) it's just data, so uniqueness surely could be determined as suggested?

    @the rest, not so much missing the point as not bothering to get to it - the arguments against - in my opinion - are much stronger than those for, but when I thought I saw an astronomical misstatement ... the point was really about the author missing the point and introducing spuriously supportive detail.

    Still a bit eggy, but I thought at the time I was possibly making an omelette...


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