3rd February 2010
|Dear Mr Moss
I am responding to your recent letters and wish to renew the offer of a meeting between you and key staff involved in the assurance of the identity of travellers. I welcome your interest and concern in the development of systems to secure our border, and note your extensive history of correspondence with Home Office ministers and officials. This is an area of great importance not only to the staff who are responsible for ensuring that the UK Border Agency protects the public with the most effective means at its disposal, but to those who have a broader interest in the technology and how it is deployed.
Although this area of our business presents a range of new challenges, not least in terms of the development of technology, we believe that we are putting the right systems in place to help us achieve our objective of securing the border. At the same time, we understand that these systems have their limitations, and cannot be expected to deliver a complete solution in isolation. We are very much reliant upon the skills and experience of our staff to make the most of these tools and protect the public.
I would like to propose a meeting with representatives of the Home Office
Scientific Development Branch (Marek-Rejman-Greene), the Identity and
Passport Service (Kevin Sheehan) and UK Border Agency (Alex Lahood and
Karen Kyle) to address some of the issues you have raised. To prepare
for this, we have set out our approach and thinking in the various areas
where you have repeatedly raised concerns (please see attached — Annex
A). We hope this gives you an opportunity to understand our approach
in advance of the meeting.
As I am aware that you make full use of the internet to record your interactions with Home Office officials, I invite you to publish this letter and its annex in full, to ensure that the points made are presented in context.
Please contact XXXXXXXXXX on XXXXXXXXXX or XXXXXXXXXX to arrange the meeting.
With regard to concerns about whether UKBA makes enough use of the Interpol lost and stolen database:
On 25 July 2007, in response to the findings of the West Review, the Prime Minister announced that the capability to make checks against the Interpol Stolen Lost Travel Documents database (SLTD) would be implemented at UK border crossing points. The solution chosen was the Interpol MIND (Mobile Interpol Network Device). This enabled the UK to retain its capability to search against its national watchlist at ports whilst conducting a parallel search on the SLTD as an integrated process and was made available to 95 sites (32 fixed control sites & 63 Back Office Sites) by the end of December 2008, giving the ability to check the Interpol database at border crossing points and for visa and in-country applications.
The Interpol database has increased rapidly as more countries have participated and now contains approximately 30 million documents. The link to the Interpol SLTD is therefore an effective tool to further enhance the primary frontline role of securing the UK border, reducing illegal immigration and protecting the UK against the risk of terrorism.
Accessing the SLTD has led to a significant number of successful interventions in identifying forged documents, imposters and stolen blank documents at the Border. It has been possible to take prosecution action over offenders identified at the border and there have also been successes from conducting checks pre-entry (visa applications) and in-country (applications for residency, marriage, students etc). One of the first successes within a week of 'go live' was identifying a stolen document in Bogota and refusing a visa.
Around 70 million checks are made against the database per year and to date there have been 13346 hits and 5108 documents seized.
An update on plans to connect to the Schengen Information System:
The UK is planning to connect to the second-generation Schengen Information System (the Central SIS II), which is being developed by the European Commission. The Commission-led project has experienced a series of technical issues which have delayed the entry into operation of the Central SIS II, and based on the Commission's current estimates, the earliest the UK will be able to connect is December 2011.
The UK is only taking part in the law enforcement aspects of SIS II. Via the e-borders system, SIS II will provide UK law enforcement agencies at the border with access to alerts on wanted and missing persons, lost and stolen passports and other identity documents, and lost and stolen vehicles.
ln response to accusations that facial recognition technology used by UKBA is unreliable:
How we use systems in our business
Why we are confident they are reliable
Many trials have been undertaken using facial recognition for 1:1 verification and an independent test in 2006 by NIST actually states that the performance of iris (which has been in use for several years by UKBA), 2D facial image and 3D facial image for the purposes of verification has become comparable. The technology is likely to have improved since 2006 and that is why we are trialling it.
Evaluation of Manchester trial
Claims that the FBI do not have confidence in facial recognition
"Mr. Moss relies upon some remarks of mine, which he has taken out of context, to support his own conclusions about the efficacy of facial recognition for identity verification. Let me unequivocally state that the FBI holds no such position and never has."
When considering context in terms of biometrics, a business need to bring successful prosecutions to court, for example, may have a very different way of judging an enabling technology than one that is concerned with border control. What works for one business area may very well not be suitable for another.
How we use it in our business, including role of the IFB
Our view on accuracy and the reliability of these systems
Why we are confident they are reliable
Are flat scans/electronic fingerprints a less useful format
than rolled e.g. are they inadmissible in court as evidence, or
a lower evidential standard.