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With DNA comes a new level of security

With DNA comes a new level of security
 

By Corinna Schindler, Head of Verification at Veridos

Biometric identification solutions have become firmly established in our everyday lives, whether at security checks at airports or through facial recognition on smartphones – and the next generation is already waiting. DNA-based processes not only ensure precise identification of individuals, but also raise data protection to a completely new level.

For a long time, DNA-based methods were reserved for forensic work, such as the unequivocal identification of disaster victims or the determination of degrees of relationship. As technology advances, however, the latest generation of solutions for establishing identity is also becoming increasingly suitable for use in public service.

This is a development with major advantages, because for citizens, proof of their own identity is the key to state benefits, education and mobility – at least in theory. In practice, many people around the world still do not have a legal identity that can be verified by a birth certificate or passport, for example. This is where the full potential of unalterable and unique DNA comes into play, which can unambiguously identify people in cases of doubt. The new generation of DNA-based methods offers far-reaching advances in this area.

Speed meets DNA technology

DNA-based personal identification is not a new invention – forensics practitioners have been using this method since the 1980s – but highly automated processes have only been available for a few years. With the latest technology, certified “Rapid DNA Technology”, solutions can generate DNA profiles (DNA IDs) anywhere and within a very short time using mobile devices and fully automated processes. These processes do not require any special technical or scientific knowledge and ensure lossless data generation.

A DNA ID card created in this way offers numerous advantages over conventional biometric identification methods such as fingerprints or iris recognition. Because the stored information is enclosed and protected directly in the nucleus of the human cell, the DNA-based solution ensures lifelong immutability and rules out tampering.

Furthermore, with regard to data protection, a DNA ID offers an unrivaled level of anonymity. The information stored in forensic or civil databases is purely numerical and does not reveal any information about a person’s ethnic origin, appearance, or health status. Nonetheless, the information is unique and unchangeable – unlike fingerprints, iris scans, or facial shapes, which can change over the course of a person’s lifetime or can be manipulated through surgery. For these reasons, DNA ID is now considered the safest and most reliable method of biometric identification, containing even less personal data than a passport photo, for example.

Simple, fast, safe

With new automated technological processes, rapid DNA identification is easier than ever. It can be applied mobile on-site, directly at the locations of authorities or even in remote regions, without the need for a laboratory. The only requirements for DNA-based identification are the appropriate samples and the mobile device. With a current processing time of less than two hours, the new methods work faster than ever. Once created, DNA IDs can be securely registered and stored in government-controlled databases, with no outside access.

The small data size of a DNA ID, just 200 bits, ensures easy storage on conventional chips for smart biometric identification documents such as passports. The scope of application of the new, fast DNA samples includes a wide range of civilian uses. In addition to securing border controls, they can also help protect integrity in elections, clarify relationships between people or prevent identity theft, for example by registering newborns. However, in addition to all the advantages that come with secure, unambiguous verification of individuals using DNA ID, it is not a “stand-alone” solution. Rather, identification by DNA is another tool to be used in conjunction with other biometric methods and can deliver extremely reliable results on an ad hoc basis.

Enlightenment as a prerequisite

The general public, however, continues to associate the collection of DNA samples predominantly with their use in the field of criminal law. The resulting skepticism towards DNA-based methods is obvious and understandable – however, a new classification and assessment is necessary and can only take place with education and transparency. An important argument here is that DNA identification is far more anonymous and precise than other biometric methods, leading to a completely new level of data protection. There were similar reservations about fingerprint matching or iris scans, but public opinion has ultimately changed completely here. Nowadays, people trust biometric procedures to unlock their smartphones and feel secure with them.

A similar evolution of public opinion is realistic for DNA IDs, if widespread education is used to draw attention to the many benefits and, in particular, the high level of security offered by the technology.

The ID technology of tomorrow

In addition to common biometric methods such as fingerprints, iris scans or facial recognition, DNA ID heralds the coming evolutionary step in personal identification and verification. The groundbreaking results of rapid DNA technologies will inexorably increase their acceptance, and it is foreseeable that the technology will find its way into further areas of life. In the future, citizens and governments will benefit equally from the advantages of fast and reliable DNA-based personal identification.

About the author

Corinna Schindler is Head of Verification at Veridos

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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