Singapore will integrate a digital identity system: SingPass. It will give citizens access to private and public government services through facial recognition technology that can identify a person’s faces. It also works in public places and can alert the police if a wanted person is identified. GovTech, the Singapore Government Agency of Technology, says this system will be fundamental to the country’s digital economy.
“You have to make sure that the person is actually there when they authenticate, that you are not viewing a photo or video or looping or deepfake,” said Andrew Bud, founder and CEO of iProov, the UK company that drives the technology supplies. However, privacy advocates are not interested in this technology, saying that consent should be paramount, especially when it comes to biometric data.
“Consent doesn’t work when there is a lack of trust” between examiners and citizens, said Ionnis Kouvakas, an attorney at Privacy International.
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Face recognition is increasing rapidly in the United States and China. Today it works in particular with Apple Pay, Google Pay and the Chinese company Alibaba with the “Smile to Pay” function. China last year introduced a requirement to scan a person’s face when buying a new cell phone. Nowadays face screening is very common in airports or in many government departments such as the Home Office in England or the Department of Health in the USA.
Face recognition technology in Singapore is currently used in tax offices and banks and will soon be available to any company that wishes to use it. GovTech believes the technology will be good for companies because they can use it without even building an infrastructure. “The basic requirement, however, is that this is done with the consent and conscience of the individual,” assures Kwow Quek Sin, director of national digital identity at GovTech Singapore.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the city-state is stepping up active surveillance. She wants to equip 5.6 million residents with connected bracelets to track down sick people.