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17 June 2011

Should Human Beings be Chipped to Avoid Identity Crisis? What's Your Say

What is identity? Everybody seems to be talking about it as if it was some process where we can just verify some artefacts and bingo we know who you are.

I think the definition is rather easy. It is the measurable properties of an object that are adequately unique to distinguish a given object from the total population of objects.

So if I were to put 5 £20 notes on the table you could tell the difference between them and easily recognise a particular note if I presented it again in a different set of £20 notes. We would of course do this just from the number printed on the note which we know to be unique.

Taking the matter further if I printed a number on everybody's forehead with non removable ink at birth then I could always identify the person. At the same time of course in my database, I would probably record some more information about the person such as their name, parents, date of birth, etc. In fact, not too different from what we do in a birth certificate.

You can see where we're going, in today’s world you turn up at the bank or whatever clutching your birth certificate and you say that's me, as described on this bit of paper. The trouble is there is absolutely nothing to connect you with the bit of paper. The bank representative cannot possibly tell if it's you on that bit of paper or not. Even then you don't even really know if the document is authentic, if somebody gave you a birth certificate document how would you know it's genuine?

Well, we're not going to stop there, please bring two utility bills with you, does this really offer any value? With today's technology, I would have said it's the easiest thing in the world to produce a couple of fake utility bills.

Then of course you can get somebody to vouch for you, as for a passport application some trusted professional who has known you for at least 2 years will sign your application form. Excuse me, what value does that have? A reference point of 2 years is meaningless on any normal scale assuming a life span of 80 years, just a couple of percent!

Several people have suggested that you should take somebody's DNA at birth and use that as the reference point. It sounds a little impractical right now, but in the future who knows? At least you are starting to measure the properties of the subject you are trying to identify or more usually verify.

Biometrics must have a place here somewhere. This at least measures some properties of the subject, but to make any sense it has to start from birth. Can anybody think of any biometric you can apply to a baby that will follow their complete life cycle reliably? The truth is we can't really do it successfully for much shorter parts of our human life cycle at least not in a way that can cover the complete population.

Dog owners will see where this is going, we have no problem in chipping our dog at birth and it stays with them for their complete life cycle. Could we apply this to humans? I don't see a problem there but how about those people who want to change their identity, you can imagine re-chipping stations popping up all over the place. However, the fraudsters would still need to get hold of an authentic chip and what that should mean is that they would have to rely on removing chips from those no longer with a need (trying not to be too gruesome here).

Probably, we just need to close the loop. When you get chipped at birth your DNA is also taken and entered on the chip suitably protected with cryptography of course.

So there you have it, a working identity system reliable for the life of the subject that can be used anywhere from setting up bank accounts to claiming social services.

Do we really think that is going to happen any time real soon? No, but you could apply it to a subset of the population that need it the most, so to speak!

http://smartcardblog.blogspot.com/



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