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Driving License Security Project

February, 1 2004

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The Driving Licence Security Project (DLSP) has been tasked with improving the security and integrity of the driver licensing system. Faced with increasing threats from fraudsters, the Agency has been examining ways in which improvements can be made to prevent criminals from obtaining genuine driving licences with false details and detecting counterfeit documents. In 2001, DVLA formed part of a Cabinet Office Steering Group which examined the state of identity fraud in the UK and provided recommendations to combat it. At the same time, the Home Office examined proposals to implement a national entitlement or identity card scheme. DVLA and the UK Passport Service (UKPS) joined forces to develop these proposals and these formed the core of the Home Office consultation on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud, which was based on the issue of a family of cards: the driving licence/ID card, passport card/ID card and a stand-alone ID card. The resulting Cabinet Office study on identity fraud and the Home Office consultation both recommended the consideration of the introduction of biometrics to prove unique identity, face to face interviews, to help confirm identity, and biographical database checks, providing a back office check to help confirm the overall "historical footprint" of applicants. In addition, it recommended stronger emphasis on security features for identity documents.

DVLA is working in conjunction with UKPS to develop a joint front-end process that would provide what has been termed 'gold standard' identity checks. This would require the applicant to attend a ?front office?, where any documentary evidence could be checked and face to face interviews carried out where necessary. In addition, biometrics could be captured in the same process, whilst long planned biographical database checks would be added to ensure the utmost confidence in the identity of all applicants, whether they were applying for a driving licence, passport or planned identity card.

Key to the process would be biometrics. Biometric identification systems measure physiological and/or behavioural characteristics and use these measurements to distinguish reliably one person from another to prevent the establishment of fictitious identities. Plans are well advanced for DVLA and UKPS to run pilots to research further all three main biometric contenders ? iris recognition, facial recognition and fingerprints.

Although fingerprints have been used for many years as a means of establishing identity, particularly in the field of crime detection, iris recognition has so far been limited to relatively small-scale applications like the one at Heathrow for frequent flyers. DVLA is leading the way in testing iris recognition technology, with volunteers participating in a three month on-site pilot. This will help inform any decision on the feasibility of using iris recognition for driving licences or, indeed, any national ID scheme.

Over the coming months, DVLA and UKPS will be working in partnership to develop the proposals further to improve the security and integrity of driving licences and passports. In addition, the work could play a central role in further developing plans for the introduction of identity cards based on the family of cards concept.

Article by Neil Akass, taken from DVL Today - Issue 25 - Reproduced under Crown Copyright

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