March 2019

fjacquot's picture

When it comes to identity documents, the picture is the aspect most often forged. Why? Because photos most visibly connect documents to their rightful owners. Fortunately, there are many ways to secure the picture to make sure that the person captured on the document is in fact the person being presented for identification to the verifier.

The Photograph: The Main Identification Method for Almost 200 Years

The role of the portrait in identification has always been paramount. Until recent years and the introduction of automated identification processes, there has never been a more efficient method to identify a person. After the invention of photography in the early 1820s, it wasn’t long before its use became ubiquitous thanks to how precisely a photo can capture the unique attributes of individuals. Two centuries later, most modern identity documents still display an individual’s picture as the primary identity attribute. The reason is simple — It is easy to check. Identification takes only a few seconds and requires no tools.

e-Passports Have Enhanced Security by Storing the Holder’s Image in the Chip

With regards to photo identification, travel documents and passports must follow the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The portrait is the only biometric data required by ICAO, with fingerprints and iris colors being optional. With the introduction of the e-Passport in the mid-2000s, the holder’s data — including their picture — is digitally stored in a micro controller. This is a major improvement for the integrity of the document. By having identical portraits in two separate locations a more secure passport was achieved.

Laminates Protect the Picture in Paper Datapages

There are two ways to secure the picture on a datapage: one is by upgrading the datapage material, and the other one is by applying a layer of security on top of the data. For paper datapages, the latter is done with a laminate, which provides a durable, tamper-resistant layer of physical protection. Any deliberate scraping of the coating results in the immediate destruction of security features and is readily evident to verifiers.

Polycarbonate Datapages Enhance Security in the Manufacturing Process

The newest generation of datapages take advantage of polycarbonate (PC) materials. PC is an extremely durable thermoplastic polymer able to sustain the engraving of hi-resolution images which have the benefit of high contrasts of grey tones. The picture is safely protected within the document’s inner layers. More than 50 countries have upgraded their paper datapages to PC.

Image Related Security Features

The security industry continues to introduce new options to enhance the security of photos as identity data. One option is via a transparent DOVID (Diffractive Optically Variable Image Device) that partially covers the picture. Another option is the duplication of the picture in different areas of the document. These are “ghost portraits”. Forcing forgers to alter more than one picture has proven an effective deterrent in the fight against fraud.

Another option is the inclusion of a security feature called Variable Changeable or Multiple Laser Image (CLI/MLI). CLI/MLI plays with light reflection, movement and an embossing effect applied to the surface. The effect creates a second, shifting image via laser engraving.

The Highest Level of Protection: Clear Windows

Another method of duplicating the portrait throughout the document is with clear personalized windows. Taking this technology one step further is the use of negative laser engraving, in which the main portrait is positively laser engraved in black on white, and the ghost portrait is engraved negatively. This prevents the alteration of the picture with a moustache or hair. making it almost impossible for fraudsters to modify the portraits. HID Global developed this kind of advanced security feature with HID Mirage™. Mirage combines several effects including a vanishing image, a personalized portrait which is negatively engraved, a bi-color metallic effect and a window seal that protects against substitution attempts.

Color Personalization Still Lacks Maturity

The next generation of PC documents will evolve from black and white to color portraits. The priority remains to achieve the highest level of fidelity possible. However, the technology has not fully matured. Multiple options are coexisting without one trend taking over. IT is worth noting that several color laser engraving technologies are proprietary and therefore very restrictive in terms of implementation options.

Facial Recognition Provides Superior Contactless Identification

It is striking to see the various concepts and technologies implemented to secure the portrait, but the most notable evolution is yet to come; automated identification is about to take over. Using a simple camera, it is possible to check the identity of a person and automatically compare the picture on the document to the digitally stored one, eliminating the risk of human error. There is still a use for the high-fidelity picture, but only as a backup when identification takes place with no operator at e-gates.

SWarne's picture

Exciting new products and processes such as mobile and digital IDs, innovative visions of frictionless borders and improved traveler experiences are emerging in the identity market. Given the potential benefits to citizens and governments alike, it is impossible not to wonder why these products and processes face such slow adoption.

To understand this, perhaps we need to look more closely at the innovation process in the public sector. The public sector is notably slower to adapt to technological transformations and to implement innovative ideas. This is borne out in the following statistics:

  • 70% of public sector workers think it is behind the private sector in terms of technology
  • Only 13% of the public sector is digitally mature

Furthermore, the public sector is generally not a good breeding ground for technological advancement. Innovation is restricted by budgets, entrepreneurial flair is not encouraged and investment in new technologies does not get the strategic consideration needed to create the vision of future identity schemes.

The consequences of such inertia are that fresh approaches to identity will be slower to market. This means that mobile identity solutions such as HID goID™ could take longer to proceed from pilot projects to full rollouts, leaving the process benefits associated with mobile biometric solutions not realized, resulting in continued inefficient paper-based solutions. The futuristic view of a traveler passing through the airport using just their biometrics—while technologically possible today—could still be years away.

However, the outlook for mobile and digital identity solutions is not as bleak as it may seem. Identity solutions providers are looking at new ways to foster digital transformation in government through the provision of modular technologies, which integrate with existing systems and deliver digitized processes whilst mitigating the risks of a complete system overhaul. New players in the market are bringing disruptive approaches to identity such as IDaaS (Identity as a Service) and self-sovereign identity, which negate the need for costly infrastructure and can work with or alongside existing government schemes.

Finally, governments are beginning to recognize that they need to improve their speed of technology adoption and are looking at new ways to engage with the commercial sector in forming a vision of the identity schemes of the future. Companies are encouraged to cooperate in creating new user experiences in open and collaborative environments, the outputs of which will form the basis of future procurement processes.

While it is frustrating that interesting new technologies are slow to be deployed, steps are being taken to create the right environment for their adoption. We must temper our impatience for new, sexy products with the simple fact that identity schemes form the backbone of security in our societies and solutions deployed must be proven and resistant to existing and emerging threats. We will undoubtedly see digital identity solutions deployed in the not too distant future through a much closer cooperation between public and private sectors.

Want to learn more on how governments are using mobile for a more secure citizenry? Get the executive brief, “The Future is Now.”

jmilan's picture

Mobile identity is one of the most popular topics in the identity business today. If we look at ongoing pilots all over the world, the most common use case we see is the mobile driver’s license. For many countries, a mobile driving license is often used as the primary identification document when there is no national identity card. But this view is a very limited one that does not take into account the other benefits and features of mobile identity.

Let’s take a closer look at three of the most promising and innovative use cases for mobile ID:

Use 1: Emergency Passport

The mobile emergency passport is probably not the first use case you think about when considering mobile identity documents. But in our opinion, it is one of the most promising ones for many reasons. Some of you might have experienced how inconvenient it can be when you lose your passport while traveling abroad. You have to go to the nearest consulate, which can be hours away from your actual location. You have to provide the consulate with proof of identity to eventually apply for an emergency passport. This can take many hours and even days if you don’t have anyone back home to provide you with back-up proof of identity documents. Until you get your emergency passport you will not be able to get home. The situation is time-consuming and frankly unnecessary because a mobile emergency passport can prevent it all.

A mobile emergency passport is a proof of identity and ownership of traveling privilege that is recognized by your country and potentially by other countries in bilateral agreements. While the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been looking for some time now at mobile passports, they are not yet recognized as a standard document for international travel. BUT, a mobile emergency passport can already be used if two countries—neighbors, for example—agree on it. It could also be used to cross your own country’s border to get back home or, as mentioned above, to start your emergency passport application as quickly as possible.

Use 2: Vehicle Registration

Vehicle registration use cases are currently very limited because of the rigidity of the physical document, but we believe that this is one of the hottest documents governments should consider turning into mobile.

There are situations where we don’t drive our own car, but we drive the car of our husband, wife or friend. Sometimes we use a rented car while traveling. In other cases, we drive a car owned by the company we work for and we participate in car sharing. In all of these cases, it is not easy to share the vehicle registration with someone else.

A mobile vehicle registration is a copy of the car registration that can be hosted on your phone and is recognized by law enforcement as well as private companies. This mobile document can also be shared with third parties on a temporary basis over the air, and can even be linked to a mobile identity document and/or a mobile driving license. This allows governments to resolve some of the current issues surrounding the physical document. A mobile vehicle registration on someone’s phone legitimates the car that you rent or borrow. It allows you to share the vehicle registration remotely with a person that you don’t have time to meet. These functionalities also spare the police valuable time, as they don’t need to follow up on or report those cases where they stop a driver without vehicle registration.

When implementing mobile vehicle registration, it makes sense for governments to invest in a solution that can store multiple ID documents from different issuers in one application. This way different documents can be linked to each other. Their interdependence makes mobile identity documents more secure. A mobile vehicle registration can be linked to the mobile driving license and could even be linked to the key that starts the car. Also, law enforcement processes can be simplified as they can verify the driving license, the car registration, the road safety certificate of the car and the proof of insurance, in a single transaction.

Use 3: Residence Permit

Receiving a residence permit can be a life-changing moment. It means that you are allowed to live and work in a foreign country. To receive a residence permit, you often work through an agent to navigate the complicated process. In many cases, the residence permit does not arrive until you have arrived in a foreign country. And then, how can you be sure you have a legitimate permit? Sometimes people staying in a foreign country assume that they are there with a legitimate residence permit when they are not. They become illegal, which poses problems for the individuals but also for the government. In such cases, remote and over-the-air-distribution of a permit is a valuable solution. Individuals could receive a mobile residence permit before entering a foreign country and would be able to check the authenticity of their permit. This mobile residence permit can also be hosted on a mobile phone and used legitimately as proof of residency privileges with the local authorities.

On top of the mentioned benefits, the renewal can be simplified. You get a warning from the government on your phone that the license expires soon along with a list of documents needed for its extension. Governments can make it even simpler by allowing mobile payment.

The value of a solution that can store multiple documents in one mobile application also applies here, as a mobile residence permit is often linked to a work permit and to an identity document as a national ID.