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Peru’s digital ID under magnifying glass after national identification registry hit by criticism

Peru’s digital ID under magnifying glass after national identification registry hit by criticism

The Peruvian national identification registry, which issues the country’s digital IDs, has found itself in turmoil after its employees initiated a strike against the institution’s boss and its faulty technology. The institution has also come under attack for “constant failures” in providing biometric verification for companies.

Last Friday, workers of the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (Registro Nacional de Identificación y Estado Civil, RENIEC) suspended the service to citizens, demanding that the government not extend the employment of the current head of the institution Carmen Milagros Velarde Koechlin.

Koechlin has been in charge of RENIEC since 2020 and made a submission to continue her duties in February. RENIEC employees, however, argue that the institution has been marred by irregularities and labor violations under her administration, news outlet Huanca York Times reports.

One of the biggest accusations brought against the head of RENIEC by striking employees is that the institution has failed to introduce a proper regulatory framework and procedure for death certificates, “affecting the legal certainty of citizens and resulting in the registration of false deaths.” The institution is in charge of maintaining the records of births, marriages, divorces and deaths in Peru.

RENIEC employees also say that citizens have been experiencing difficulty accessing services in cities such as Junin because of frequent system crashes and the lack of maintenance and personnel.

Workers are not the only ones staging a rebellion against RENIEC. In April, the local business association Afin (Association for the Promotion of National Infrastructure) decried the “constant failures” in RENIC’s biometric verification service.

Peruvian citizens are required to submit their biometrics to sign contracts with telecommunication companies and perform actions such as changing SIM cards, while companies bear the cost of the verification.

“If the State has the monopoly of this service and profits from this activity, minimum quality standards are expected, otherwise it should be able to be penalized or ask for a refund of what was paid or omit the charge. For this reason, we call for an improvement in the availability  – without interruptions or failures –  of Reniec’s biometric verification in order not to continue affecting the telecommunications service”, says Afin.

In its response, RENIEC said its services were slowed down by the 4 million computer attacks it has received and blocked in the last months. The institution also blamed telecommunications company Viettel Peru SAC (Bitel) for abnormal traffic in the biometric verification service.

RENIEC troubles may mean troubles for Peru’s digital ID

Peru’s national digital identity (Documento Nacional de Identidad – DNI), issued by RENIEC, has been seen as a bulwark against cybercrime. Peruvians are required to submit fingerprint biometrics and a facial photo to obtain the ID.

Despite the efforts to contain crime, the country has witnessed another cyber theft case this week. Police in Peru apprehended a gang that scalped football tickets using digital ID certificates and real data from Peruvians obtained illegally through databases. The cybercriminals were accused of identity theft of at least 24 Peruvians, Andina reports.

Data from RENIEC shows that since 2020, a total of 923 attempts at identity theft have been blocked in digital ID registrations. A large majority of these cases are linked to the use of data of deceased persons, according to tax and regulatory software maker Sovos, which owns TOC Biometrics.

“Criminals take advantage of vulnerabilities in the technologies used by companies, whether new or legacy, to perpetrate these attacks. In Peru, attempts at identity theft through the use of altered documents represent 10 percent of the digital transactions of the companies that use our services, which we are able to detect and stop with our systems,” Felipe Sánchez, Identity Verification Product Manager at Sovos told media outlet Gestion.

Worldcoin has just launched operations in Peru, providing something of an alternative to the national ID system.

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