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MHA tables Bill to collect iris images from S’poreans, PRs

by October 11, 2016 General

Singapore citizens and permanent residents may soon have to get their eyes scanned and recorded by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), in its bid to strengthen identity-verification methods.

This move to collect iris images as an extra personal identifier, besides photographs and fingerprints, is among four proposed amendments to the National Registration Act that were tabled by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Parliament on Monday (Oct 10).

The Act, enacted in 1965 for the registration of persons in Singapore, was last amended in 1994.

The ministry said that the iris scan is “a proven technology” that is “convenient, contactless and non-intrusive”.

The added accuracy from using this technology in the identification process would allow for a more effective and efficient clearance process at Singapore checkpoints, it added.

The MHA also proposed that non-ICA officers be appointed as registration officers so that the ICA may partner other public-sector agencies or the private sector to deliver more convenient registration services.

For example, the public may enrol to submit personal identifiers, such as iris images, at more locations.

Related to the submission of personal data, another key proposed amendment seeks to give the ICA the power to refuse to register inappropriate names that are “against the public interest”.

These include names that are offensive to other people, or names that may be confusing or misleading, for instance, “Professor” or “Sir”.

The fourth proposal involves giving ICA officers investigative powers to deal with matters related to the issuing of identity cards or offences under the Act.

Right now, only the police can investigate offences under the Act.

The MHA said: “The proposed amendments to the (Act) to collect iris images, appoint non-ICA officers as registration officers, provide ICA officers with investigative powers, and refuse registration of inappropriate names, will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of ICA operations.”

The Government has been looking into having an iris-recognition system for checkpoint clearance for more than 10 years.

In 2003, it was reported that the ICA was evaluating such a system for motorcyclists and their pillion riders at land checkpoints.

The following year, as the Government pushed for the more secure biometric passports to be used, the ICA said that it would call for a tender to get proposals on the biometric systems for e-passports, which may include iris-scan technology.

However, when biometric passports were launched in 2006, this was not used.

Last year, in looking to enhance the passport system, the authority called for proposals from the industry to help design a system that used iris scans to identify travellers.

Source: Government of Singapore