My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: PICA's US$1.38 million JPICS upgraded to FRS - How FRS can spot stolen or forged Passports and Why Iris Scan Database needed

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

PICA's US$1.38 million JPICS upgraded to FRS - How FRS can spot stolen or forged Passports and Why Iris Scan Database needed


“What we really want to do is, if someone comes to us with (someone else's name) we will see that it is a different photograph, and we are able to match not just the obvious matches but we are looking digitally at the various features of the face to see the extent to which one's face is the same as, or is different from another”

Chief Executive Officer of PICA, Jennifer McDonald explaining how the FRS will work to prevent Passport fraud

PICA (Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency) is now in the business of facial recognition, making it harder for you to forge Passports.

This as they've applied for and had gotten Cabinet approval for the procurement of a US$1.38 million contract for a FRS (Facial Recognition Software) as reported in the article “PICA To Import Multimillion­Dollar Device To Fight Identity Theft”, published Thursday July 16, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.




Minister with responsibility for Information, Sandrea Falconer along with Chief Executive Officer of PICA, Jennifer McDonald and Minister of Security Peter Bunting jointly, made this announcement at the Jamaica House Media Briefing on Wednesday July 15th 2015.

Minister with responsibility for Information, Sandrea Falconer pointed out that with prevalence of identity theft, the purchase of this biometric software application was necessary.

To quote Minister with responsibility for Information, Sandrea Falconer, the FRS is really an improved “version” of the current JPICS (Jamaica Passport Issuance and Control System): “All photographs received from applicants will be checked against this database to identify a one­to­one match or to eliminate one­to­many matches”.

Had no idea that checking faces by examining them under a portable microscope or magnifying glass and a strong backlight was a system. Still, FRS should automate that process that is prone to human error – a possible source of forgeries slipping though the system in the first place!

JPICS upgraded to FRS - How FRS can spot stolen or forged Passports

According to the CEO of PICA, Jennifer McDonald, the Facial Recognition Software can uniquely identify a specific individual's face. This can be either from a group of faces or a single image in an image.

It then compares it against PICA's Passport Database for registered Jamaican Passport holders, making it possible to spot criminals and instances of identity theft if a mismatch to face and the name or Passport number is detected.

Facial Recognition makes it possible to uniquely identify a Jamaican citizen based on their facial feature. It is considered a biometric market that’s unique to the individual, almost like a fingerprint. FRS is current deployed at certain specific high security locations usually associated with travel and the use of travel documents, such as embassies, consulates and airports.

The previous JPICS, deployed since 2001, has detected only seven hundred and ninety (790) cases of identity theft, which is rather low for a fifteen (15) year span given the pervasiveness of Passport fraud. After all, with PICA agents under pressure, there is only so much a pair of eyes can spot and many slip through the cracks, be it intentionally or unintentionally!

PICA plan to use the Facial Recognition Software to detect forged or stolen Passports. This by comparing the Passport image to those stored in PICA's Passport Database for a particular name connected to that Passport name or number.

If either the face or the Passport number does match that of the bearer of the Passport, they would have stopped an unscrupulous individual from using a forged or stolen Passport. This as the mismatch to PICA's Passport Database would reveal the forgery.

So what could possibly go wrong? Almost everything I'm afraid!!

FRS from Canadian Bank Note Company - Iris scan Database needed as face can be duplicated

The Monday June 1st 2015date for the price increase for renewal and replacement for Jamaican Passports as stipulate by Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, has come and gone as reported in my blog article entitled “@NatSecurityJA sets June 1st 2015 as new PICA Deadline – MNP, 19 Cable TV missing and Zika Virus for the Summer of 2015”.

This new software will not result in any further prices increases, as the US$1.38 million contract is being sourced from GOJ (Government of Jamaica) tax dollars as reported in the article “PICA to introduce facial recognition Passport system”, published Saturday, July 18, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

The upgrade is apparently needed, as seven hundred and ninety (790) cases of forged or stolen Passports over fifteen (15) years looks a little suspicious. Hopefully the Canadian contractor Canadian Bank Note Company’s FRS software, which is also used to detect forged banknotes, works a lot better and is faster than the current human-based JPICS system.

While they’re at it, an iris scan database wouldn't be a bad idea despite qualms about privacy as noted in my blog article entitled “@CarnegieMellon Remote Iris Scanner - Invasion of Privacy Legislation if Remote Iris Scanning” becomes popular like Touch ID”, seeing as twins tend to have near identical faces, even in Passport photographs.

Additionally, facial features change as an individual ages. Hopefully the ten (10) upgrade cycles will occur before a young man’s face becomes disfigured by cuts or puberty, as you significantly different with a beard.

Even the human-eyes based JPICS system couldn’t spot those! All in the name of National Security!  



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