As cases of COVID-19 surge in Brazil, the country’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has announced that it will be suspending biometric authentication in the coming municipal elections this year in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
TSE president Luis Roberto Barroso announced the decision following his recent meetings with specialists from Brazilian hospitals Sírio Libanês and Albert Einstein, and medical research foundation Fundação Fiocruz, as part of an ongoing partnership with the Brazilian government aimed at safeguarding the public from COVID-19 during the November elections.
Brazil’s government has been collecting its citizens’ biometric data via the TSE since 2008 in an effort to reduce voter fraud. That initiative later grew to involve the creation of a universal citizen biometric database which would eventually contain everything from tax and voting records to driver registrations under a unified ID card.
The country’s current biometric voting setup involves contact-based fingerprint scanners, which the TSE and its consultants decided would not be safe even with sanitation after each use, and could cause potential crowding due to the fact that it can sometimes take longer to authenticate an individual than it would take to have them sign a traditional signature.
Over the past several months, due in large part to concerns about spreading COVID-19, there has been a surge of interest in contactless biometrics like facial recognition, biometric payment cards, and palm and finger vein scanning as well as touchless fingerprint sensors.
However, Brazil is working with older technologies for its national biometric voting systems, which for the most part pre-date the contactless technology that is now gaining popularity. It is unclear whether Brazil has replaced or updated its system since its inception in 2008, though in that time it gathered the biometric data of more than 119 million citizens, and authorities plan on having that number reach 150 million by the year 2022.
July 16, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis