Biometrics for use in identification

​A rapidly developing application for the general public

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Biometrics for use in identificationThe fight against document fraud and identity theft requires the implementation of new technological solutions.

Biometrics has quickly established itself as the most pertinent technology for identifying individuals in a fast and reliable way through the use of unique biological characteristics. Hitherto reserved for sensitive fields such as the security of military sites, today many programs are drawing on biometrics and applications for the general public are now seeing rapid development. These applications are predominantly introduced by national authorities, as the capture and management of a population's fingerprints call for tightly regulated legal and technical framework.

The application which has been most widely deployed to date is the electronic passport, particularly with the second generation, which stores two fingerprints in addition to a passport photo. Biometrics provides irrefutable evidence of the link between the document and its holder.

Another advantage of this solution is that it speeds up border crossing through the use of scanners, which use the principle of recognition by comparison of the face and/or fingerprints.

Other applications exist, chiefly national identity cards, widespread in European and Middle East countries, and health insurance programs, such as in Gabon. Fingerprints are used to confirm the identity of the bearer of the card before he or she is given access to governmental services or healthcare.

In addition, many countries have set up biometric infrastructures to control migration flows to and from their territories. Fingerprint scanners and cameras installed at border posts and consulates capture certain types of information that help identify nationals entering and leaving the country in a more precise and reliable way. The same applies to visa applications and renewals.

Data acquisition requires reliable equipment to ensure optimum capture of photos and fingerprints, essential for precision during comparison and verification.

Gemalto incorporates a range of acquisition devices which guarantee the best results in all circumstances, in particular in the case of mobile registration of rural populations.

AFIS databases (Automated Fingerprint Identification System), often linked to a civil register database, ensure the identity and uniqueness of the citizen in relation to the rest of the population in a reliable, fast and automated way. They can combine fingerprints, a photo and an iris scan for greater reliability.

Fingerprint verification can be performed on two levels:

  • 1 :1, i.e. in relation to the reference fingerprint, which is stored in a centralized database or in the citizen’s electronic identification document (useful in the case of a lack of connectivity between verification devices in the field and the central site).
  • 1 : N, i.e. between a citizen and the whole population. This guards against a citizen registering in a system under multiple identities. It is the most useful function in the fight against identity theft. It requires a permanent link between verification devices and the centralized database, which is generally the case for airports and for most medium and large towns. In the case of a lack of connectivity, a comparison with the whole database may be deferred, for instance when processing a citizen’s requests an identification document or a passport. A validation process can be configured so that a request is automatically blocked and flagged if the fingerprints are found more than once in the database.

Gemalto, world leader in electronic identity solutions, is able to offer a complete solution for acquisition, management and verification of biometric data:

  • Biometric data capture during citizen registration
  • Real-time verification in a centralized AFIS database during registration and control
  • Issuing of documents (data transfer from centralized database to smart chip)
  • Fixed and mobile verification terminals
  • Comparison algorithm embedded in smart card.


The Portuguese experience


Biometrics with strict confidentiality




Biometric verification of an insured person’s identity in Gabon on a nonconnected reader. The card can confirm the accuracy of the fingerprints given in total security. It is not necessary to access a centralized fingerprint database.

The Gabon health program - [PDF - 1.8mb]

Biometrics at work for identification


Microsoft’s Windows Biometric Framework represents the first integrated approach to biometric identification and security.




Electronic Passport - Portugal

In December 2009, the Moroccan passport became the first electronic biometric passport on the African continent to integrate digital fingerprints.

Moroccan biometric passport - [PDF - 523kb]