[Speech] Privacy and Security Concerns Over ICA’s Iris Scans and Biometric Data

SPEECH DURING THE 2ND READING OF THE NATIONAL REGISTRATION (AMDT) BILL

Mdm Speaker, I rise to support this Amendment Bill. This Bill seeks to amend the Act to expand types of personal identifiers of persons registered or required to be registered under the Act that may be collected by ICA.

Although I support the Bill, I wish to highlight the need for robust and stronger safeguards with respect to privacy and security arising from the collection of biometric data.

The collection of iris scans from Singaporean citizens and permanent residents could begin as early as next year according to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) as an extra personal identifier, besides photographs and fingerprints.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) says that iris scanning is “a proven technology” that is “convenient, contactless and non-intrusive”. I join members who spoke earlier the concerns on both of counts of privacy and security.

Privacy Concern

As scanning of irises are contactless and non-intrusive, the technology could potentially scan irises covertly as opposed to the scanning of thumb prints which requires active participation of the person being identified.

Iris scan technology can be taken from as far as 12 metres away according to scientific sources highlighted publicly. These developments are perceived as Orwellian because they allow iris cameras to be unseen, and to operate in a non-consensual surveillance mode.

Iris scan ica
Source: OpenGov Asia

Security Concern

Once an iris becomes a digital file, that file will need to be adequately protected against attack. Systems can be hacked, biometric identifiers could be stolen and misused.

What are the safeguards which have been and will be put in place to address these privacy and security concerns in collecting biometric data such as iris scans? How will these safeguards be communicated to the public to allay concerns?

New NRICs with Updated Photographs

On a different note and point but also on National Registration Identification system. I have raised previously as a PQ earlier this year but reiterate again the need for ICA to renew and re-issue our NRICs again during the later years of our life and at selected intervals because the pictures on the NRIC may be outdated and inaccurate.

I urge ICA to do this and at no cost impact to Singaporeans. This updating exercise will also help in the iris scan roll-out.

Thank you.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/patrick-tay/speech-during-the-2nd-reading-of-the-national-registration-amdt-bill-by-mr-patri/1126663540702059

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