Cloud facial verification tech used for first time in establishing national digital identity in Singapore scheme

Cloud facial verification technology has been used for the first time in a government national identity programme in Singapore.

The country’s National Digital Identity (NDI) programme, driven by Singapore’s GovTech agency, will utilise the technology in SingPass – the digital identity for Singapore residents used by four million people – as proof of ID for accessing government services online.

The biometric facial technology, implemented by British company iProov and Toppan Ecquaria, scans the user’s face with a camera in a mobile device, computer or kiosk, and the screen briefly illuminates with a cryptographic sequence of colours. This confirms that the user is the correct person and, crucially, that they are conducting the check right now, as opposed to using a video or a deepfake.

“This marks a tipping point for facial verification. The technology has advanced so much in recent years that it can now provide the highest levels of reliable security for the authentication of a national digital identity programme,” said Andrew Bud, Founder and CEO at iProov.

Facial verification differs from facial recognition, because unlike the latter, which matches a face, for example in a crowded street, to a database of images, it is done with the knowledge and collaboration of the user.

The technology dispenses with the need for passwords or to share data with individual companies, as private sector organisations are permitted to use the SingPass identity infrastructure.

However, not everyone believes such technology preserves the privacy of users by obtaining their knowledge of its use.

“Consent does not work when there is an imbalance of power between controllers and data subjects, such as the one observed in citizen-state relationships,” said Ioannis Kouvakas, legal officer with London-based Privacy International, reported by the BBC.

Quek Sin Kwok, Senior Director of National Digital Identity at GovTech Singapore, said: “Singapore’s national digital identity, SingPass, enables citizens and permanent residents to transact seamlessly and securely with public and private sectors’ digital services. We recently introduced a new biometrics face verification service for users to log in more conveniently to digital services, whilst providing an added layer of security for government agencies and businesses. SingPass Face Verification, under our National Digital Identity (NDI) programme, will help partners enhance their customer service journeys. We will continue to extend useful and trusted NDI services to more private sector organisations to accelerate digitalisation and grow Singapore’s digital economy.”

Dr. Foong Wai Keong, Managing Director of Toppan Ecquaria, said: “Allowing businesses to tap into the government-built digital identity infrastructure significantly reduces time and costs. And doing so using facial verification and on the cloud – that is revolutionary.”

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