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Singapore replaces passwords and ID documents with facial recognition systems

As reported by Strait Times, Singapore plans to replace passwords and identity documents with biometrics to verify identities and initiate transactions. This is a part of Singapore’s national facial identification service.

Government agencies and financial institutions will set up booths to enable Singaporeans above the age of 15 to scan their faces for immediate verification. Elderly people and overseas citizens, however, will be able to scan their faces using the SingPass Mobile app. According to the report, the new technology has the ability to prevent spoofing and identity theft as well.

Since 2018, the SingPass Mobile application has supported fingerprint and facial recognition for local use. It was later announced that the country wants to use facial recognition as part of its National Digital Identity (NDI) system the same year, followed by fingerprint and voice recognition. The Singapore National Employers Federation and insurer NTUC Income is constantly carrying out tests on SingPass Mobile for online services. 

The Minister for the PM’s Smart Nations Initiative, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, announced that the new incorporation to the country’s national identity system is vital for the country’s prosperity. He further stated that the agenda is to facilitate more business entities to reap the benefits of the digital infrastructure built by the government. Banks and financial institutions might be able to use the resource to carry out high-risk transactions online, such as money transfers of more than $10,000. In the future, the service might be used to identify customers in buildings and hotels.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) stated that one of the advantages of the government-backed facial recognition service is that users’ biometric data will not be leaked or shared with anyone, including private organizations. However, the users can still choose to enter passwords or use identity documents if they oppose having their faces scanned. Strict data protection and management protocols are in place and identification of individuals will only be carried out when necessary, such as during law enforcement and in finding missing individuals.

Singapore has pledged to invest in biometric technology as one of the top areas of artificial intelligence research aimed to drive social and economic development.