Open letter

 

James Hall

Home Office Director General for Identity Services

Registrar General for England and Wales

Chief Executive

Identity & Passport Service

Globe House

89 Eccleston Square

London SW1V 1PN

 

30 October 2009

 
 

Dear Mr Hall

The FBI imply that IPS and UKBA are wasting money on face recognition technology

According to a recent press release [1], among other sources, the Home Office are relying on face recognition technology (and fingerprinting) to make it possible for ePassports, biometric visas and ID cards to verify peopleís identity reliably.

Speaking on 21 October 2009 at the Biometrics 2009 conference [2] held in London, Mr James A Loudermilk II outlined the plans for the FBIís use of biometrics. These are extensive enough to have occupied all the time allowed for his presentation. Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to say what is not in the FBIís plans Ė face recognition technology.

Face recognition would be the killer application of biometrics, Mr Loudermilk told the hundreds of conference delegates. The FBI would love to be able to use face recognition in their fight against crime. But they canít. The algorithms just donít exist to deliver the highly reliable verification required. They have been evaluating face recognition technology since 1963. They didnít invest then. And theyíre still not investing now.

Many critics of IPS and UKBAís dependence on face recognition technology can be ignored. When it comes from the FBI, that is a different order of (implicit) criticism. It canít be ignored. It demands a response, including a public examination of the statistics on the basis of which IPS and UKBA decided to invest in face recognition technology.

Given that, according to the FBI, the algorithms just donít exist to deliver the highly reliable verification required, two questions for you:

         Are IPS and UKBA wasting their time and wasting taxpayersí money on face recognition technology?

         And while weíre about it, are IPS and UKBA wasting their time and wasting taxpayersí money on the particular fingerprinting technology chosen?

Yours sincerely

David Moss

 

cc††††††† Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman, Home Affairs Committee

††††††††††† Phil Willis MP, Chairman, Science and Technology Committee

††††††††††† Sir David Normington KCB, Permanent Secretary, Home Office

††††††††††† Sir Michael Scholar KCB, Chair, UK Statistics Authority

††††††††††† Brodie Clark, Head of the Border Force, UK Border Agency

††††††††††† John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector, UK Border Agency

††††††††††† Lin Homer, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency

†††††††††††

 



[1] 7 October 2009, Sagem Sťcuritť chosen by IBM to support United Kingdomís National Identity Assurance Service (NIAS), http://www.safran-group.com/site-safran-en/press-media/press-releases/2009-447/article/sagem-securite-chosen-by-ibm-to

[2] Biometrics 2009 conference, 20-22 October 2009, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London, UK, http://www.biometrics2009.com/