News Flash: France Preps New Digital ID System

Official digital identity programme will use facial recognition technology for enrolment

In November, France could become the first European country to use facial recognition technology to give citizens an official digital identity, according to a report by Bloomberg. The report says the French government plans to introduce an Android app for smartphones, dubbed Alicem, which will require residents to use facial recognition to obtain a legal digital ID.

The Alicem enrolment process will create the digital ID by comparing the citizen’s photo in their physical passport to the expressions, movements and angles captured by a “selfie video” filmed by the user. Bloomberg, which has reviewed the app, says the citizen’s phone and passport will exchange data through their embedded chips. Although the planned use of facial recognition has prompted some criticism and concerns, the French interior ministry, which developed the Alicem app, says the facial data collected will be deleted when the enrolment process is over, according to Bloomberg.

“The widespread use of an equivalent of a public DNA is a challenge for regulators,” Patrick Van Eecke, a privacy and data specialist at DLA Piper in Brussels told Bloomberg. “You can look at France’s use of facial recognition for digital identity in two ways: it goes too far in terms of privacy, or they’re using the most secure new technology. Are they a front-runner or are they overstepping the mark?”

For more information, see the Bloomberg article here.