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Singapore’s face scan plan sparks privacy fears

Agence France-Presse

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This photo taken on October 1, 2020 shows Lee Sea Lin, director for innovation at digital consultancy Toppan Ecquaria which has partnered with GovTech to implement facial verification technology, demonstrating the use of the technology on his mobile phone in Singapore. (AFP)

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Singapore will become the world’s first country to use facial verification in its national ID scheme, but privacy advocates are alarmed by what they say is an intrusive system vulnerable to abuse.

From next year, millions of people living in the city-state will be able to access government agencies, banking services and other amenities with a quick face scan.

This biometric check will do away with the need to remember a password or security dongle when performing many everyday tasks, its creators say.

It is part of the financial hub’s drive to harness technology, from ramping up the use of electronic payments to research on driverless transport.

“We want to be innovative in applying technology for the benefit of our citizens and businesses,” Kwok Quek Sin, who works on digital identification at Singapore’s technology agency GovTech, told AFP.

Facial verification has already been adopted in various forms around the world, with Apple and Google implementing the technology for tasks like unlocking phones and making payments.

Governments have also deployed it at airports for security checks on travellers.

But Singapore’s rollout is one of the most ambitious yet, and the first to attach facial verification to a national identification database.

The technology captures a series of photos of a person’s face in various lights.

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