Biometric Identification Cuts Welfare Fraud in Ireland

Biometric Identification Cuts Welfare Fraud in IrelandOver 60 social services fraudsters have been caught by a new biometric identification system in Ireland, according to an Irish Independent article by Shane Phelan. Collectively, the fraudsters had collected €1 million before being caught.

The country’s Department of Social Protection has been using a facial recognition system with the new public service identification cards to improve identification of citizens in issuing social welfare. So far about 1.4 million of these ID cards have been issued in a registration process that includes the collection of face biometric data, which is subsequently used to authenticate welfare recipients. Testifying before the country’s Public Accounts Committee, DSP secretary general Niamh O’Donoghue said that in addition to catching the welfare fraudsters, the ID cards would also save the country another €1.5 million by stopping other claims, and attested that the system would prove even more valuable in the long term. (It’s worth noting, however, that O’Donoghue emphasized that the vast majority of welfare recipients are deserving and eligible.)

The system is similar to many other biometric authentication initiatives being implemented by governments around the world. India’s Aadhaar program is perhaps the most ambitious, using a biometric citizen registry in a range of applications from helping to deliver healthcare to tracking government employee attendance; but even states in the US are starting to adopt similar technologies in their official documents, despite the country’s strong tradition of privacy rights advocacy. In applications such as the one employed by Ireland’s Department of Social Protection, such systems can clearly foster significant payoffs.

May 29, 2015 – by Alex Perala