Saturday, January 16, 2021

Singapore’s world-first face scan plan sparks privacy fears

Millions of people will be able to access government agencies, banking services and other amenities with a quick face scan.

Other News

Jenazah Salleh Abas selamat dikebumikan

Proses pengebumian dikendalikan kira-kira 10 petugas Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Terengganu yang lengkap berpakaian pelindung diri (PPE).

Katil PKRC Maeps masih mencukupi walaupun kes Covid-19 terus meningkat

Lebih 5,000 kapasiti katil masih belum digunakan untuk merawat pesakit Covid-19 kategori 1 dan 2.

Menteri jelaskan rasional benarkan kedai barang kemas dibuka

Ia bertujuan untuk membantu rakyat bawahan yang mahu menjual barang kemas mereka bagi mendapatkan wang tunai.

Minister shares rationale behind green light for ‘non-essential’ gold stores

Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi says the permission to continue operating granted to goldsmiths and jewellers is not intended to benefit the wealthy.

Global Covid-19 death toll passes 2 million

Infections have snowballed, with 724,000 new cases recorded on average per day globally over the past week – a record 10% increase from a week earlier.

Singapore will become the world’s first country to use facial verification in its national ID scheme, but privacy advocates are alarmed by what they say is an intrusive system vulnerable to abuse.

From next year, millions of people living in the city-state will be able to access government agencies, banking services and other amenities with a quick face scan.

This biometric check will do away with the need to remember a password or security dongle when performing many everyday tasks, its creators say.

It is part of the financial hub’s drive to harness technology, from ramping up the use of electronic payments to research on driverless transport.

“We want to be innovative in applying technology for the benefit of our citizens and businesses,” Kwok Quek Sin, who works on digital identification at Singapore’s technology agency GovTech, told AFP.

Facial verification has already been adopted in various forms around the world, with Apple and Google implementing the technology for tasks like unlocking phones and making payments.

Governments have also deployed it at airports for security checks on travellers.

But Singapore’s rollout is one of the most ambitious yet, and the first to attach facial verification to a national identification database.

The technology captures a series of photos of a person’s face in various lights.

These images are matched with other data already available to the government such as national identity cards, passports and employment passes.

Safeguards ensure the process is secure, said Lee Sea Lin of digital consultancy Toppan Ecquaria, which is working with GovTech to implement the technology.

“We want to have assurance that the person behind the device is a real person… and that it is not an image or a video,” Lee said.

The technology is being integrated into the country’s digital identity scheme and is being trialled now at some government offices, including the tax authority and the city’s pension fund.

Private firms can sign up to the initiative, and Singapore’s biggest bank DBS is part of the trial.

Surveillance concerns

Face scanning technology remains controversial despite its growing use and critics have raised ethical concerns about it in some countries – for instance, law enforcement agencies scanning crowds at large events to look for troublemakers.

Singapore authorities are frequently accused of targeting government critics and taking a hard line on dissent, and activists are concerned about how the face scanning tech will be used.

“There are no clear and explicit restraints on government power when it comes to things like surveillance and data gathering,” said Kirsten Han, a freelance journalist from the city.

“Will we one day discover that this data is in the hands of the police or in the hands of some other agency that we didn’t specifically give consent for?”

Those behind the Singapore scheme stress facial verification is different to recognition as it requires user consent, but privacy advocates remain sceptical.

“The technology is still far from benign,” Privacy International research officer Tom Fisher told AFP.

He said systems like the one planned for Singapore left “opportunities for exploitation”, such as use of data to track and profile people.

Kwok of GovTech insisted that no data would be shared with third parties and users would be left with other options, such as personal passwords, to access services.

“It is not surveillance,” he said. “The use is very specific.”

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/malaysianow

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news and analyses.

Related Articles

Latest smart mask features microphone, coloured lights and N95 respirator

Wearers can customise their look by activating two coloured lighting zones for social occasions

Singapore woman jailed 5 months for lying to Covid-19 contact tracers

She said she kept her meetings with a man secret because she was concerned her family would spread rumours about them having an affair.

Singapore’s first ever parliament live stream viewed over 82,000 times

Covid-19 and the response to the pandemic were the main topics of the streamed sitting.

Not so fast: Brakes on HSR project reflect global concerns on cost-benefits of speed trains

The need for 'premium' passengers to cover costs and the other transport projects which could benefit from the same funds are among the factors of concern for high-speed rails.

Dr M: HSR cannot be justified

He voices concern about the cost of the project, saying it could wait another 10 to 20 years.