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Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
Social Welfare

Facial recognition on the way for social welfare claimants

The rollout of a new Public Services Card will mean new technology to ensure claimants are who they claim to be.

SOCIAL WELFARE CLAIMANTS will be faced – literally – with cameras to determine their identity when a new generation of identity cards is rolled out early next year.

The new Public Services Card, which has already being phased in and will be introduced nationwide in 2013 – will require welfare recipients to stand in front of a camera so that their facial image can be recorded and printed onto their new card.

Once the rollout has been completed, visitors to Social Welfare offices will have another picture taken and referenced against the original to vouch for their identity.

The moves are the Department of Social Protection’s latest attempts to clamp down on social welfare fraud.

The new cards will also carry an authoritative copy of the claimant’s signature, which will also be used as a ‘master copy’ and referenced against any future claims.

A spokeswoman for the Department said this evening that the facial image matching software was “an integral part” of the Public Services Card project, “in that it ensures that only one identity will be associated with each photograph”.

This would reduce the risk of impersonation and of having single individuals using multiple identities to claim social welfare.

The system is intended to simplify the identification procedure for legitimate welfare claimants, as possession of the new card will be sufficient to make a claim and no other types of identification will be needed.

A contract for the facial image matching software, worth almost €213,000, was awarded to 3M Ireland earlier this year.

The Department spokeswoman said that, over time, the Public Services Card would be rolled out to clients of other public sector organisations and to the general public as part of a new national framework for standardised authentication.

In the short term it is intended to issue the new standardised card to older people as a replacement for their free travel pass.

Column: That €600m we can save by tackling welfare fraud? It doesn’t exist

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