Irish officials say no biometric update for ID cards


Officials in Ireland say an upgrade in identity software for the Department of Social Protection will not involve biometric data, yet insist it can still detect identity fraud. 

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the new software would not use advanced facial mapping cameras when taking photographs for registration or replacement of a public services card.

However, an “important byproduct” of the update would be to detect any potential instances of identity theft or suspected social welfare fraud, she said, reported The Irish Times.

To date, 3.2 million public services cards, which the department requires for access to social welfare benefits, have been issued.

The department has put out a tender for €700,000 seeking an upgrade of its technology, which the Minister said had not been upgraded since its introduction six years ago.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy noted the Minister posted a tweet last August in which she “clearly stated that the department does not collect facial-recognition data”.

Ms Doherty insisted that “the tweet still stands”.

“We don’t collect biometric data. We collect and store photographs.”

The Minister added: “All we’re doing is upgrading the software.”

But the tender documents issued by the department state that the supplier must provide the “tools and processes to migrate up to four million (biometric and face biometric) records from the legacy system database to the new solution solution” and carry out work to ensure there are no duplicate images.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is seeking tenders for new facial matching software to support up to 20,000 registrations a week for the public services card and to transfer up to four million facial biometric records of Irish residents to a new database.

The department expects the contract value to be about €700,000, excluding VAT.

The card project has cost about €60 million to date and more than three million cards have been issued.

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