German Foreign Ministry Expanding Biometric Recognition Methods in Embassies

The Foreign Ministry is expanding the use of biometrical recognition methods in its embassies. From April 2004 to March 2005 the German representation in Nigeria carried out a pilot project for the parallel use of electronic face recognition and fingerprint scanners for all Nigerians applying for a long-term visa to Germany. The result: 40 per cent of the 600 applicants had either already tried to enter Germany under a different name, had attracted attention in Germany as criminals, or had been rejected as asylum-seekers. This was primarily discovered by comparing fingerprints. Face recognition alone would have uncovered only 14 per cent of the applicants as cheats. Nevertheless, the authorities assess face recognition largely positively in a report.

If the quality of the photographs used for comparison from the Central Registry of Foreigners, for instance, improves, the recognition quotas could go up considerably, the excerpts say. In a few weeks the German embassy in the Philippines, too, intends to start scanning the fingerprints of the applicants there and making a digital photograph of their faces. In Manila the number of would-be travellers is far higher than in Lagos; there it can be tested how well the technology works when it is used on a massive scale.