Biometric facial verification to replace passwords and ID documents for online services in Singapore

Biometric facial verification to replace passwords and ID documents for online services in Singapore

Singapore’s planned national facial identification service will replace passwords and physical credentials with biometrics for a range of processes and transactions, The Straits Times reports.

Banks and government agencies are expected to provide kiosks which will enable Singaporeans aged 15 years and above to scan their faces for instant verification, while elderly people and overseas citizens will be able to scan their facial biometrics with the SingPass Mobile app. The new facial identification service also leverages anti-spoofing technology, according to the report.

The SingPass Mobile app has supported fingerprint and facial biometrics for in-country use since 2018. The country also previously announced plans to use facial recognition as part of its National Digital Identity (NDI) system the same year, possibly to be followed by fingerprint and voice recognition.

Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister responsible for the Prime Minister’s Office’s Smart Nation initiative, said the new additions to the country’s national identity system are key to its progress. He told Singapore’s parliament that while the changes require “a lot of behind-the-scenes work, often unnoticed and underappreciated. But, like physical infrastructure, they are fundamental to our ongoing digital transformation.”

The use of SingPass Mobile for online services is being tested by the Singapore National Employers Federation and insurer NTUC Income, and Dr. Balakrishnan, who also serves as Foreign Minister, said the plan is to enable more businesses to take advantage of the digital infrastructure built by the government. Banks may be able to use the service to carry out high-risk transactions online, such as transfers of more than $10,000. Other potential uses mentioned by the Straits Times include identification of visitors to commercial buildings or hotels.

The government maintains ownership and control over all biometric data, and users can still opt for traditional verification methods including passwords, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) says.

The trial of smart lamp posts with facial recognition, meanwhile, will continue, with a new deployment to Punggol in an expansion of an ongoing trial.

Parliament was assured by Dr. Balakrishnan that strict data management and protection protocols are in place.

Singapore has committed to investing in biometric technology as one of five areas of AI research intended to boost social and economic development.

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