SA needs to introduce facial verification into electoral process

iiDENTIFii assesses the role of facial verification as a prevention method against identity theft and voter fraud.

Johannesburg, 21 Jan 2021
Read time 3min 00sec

The recent presidential elections in the USA have undoubtedly been the most contested in the country’s history. Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud flies in the face of Joe Biden’s record number of voter ballots.

While this political theatre plays out on a global stage, the subject of identity theft and electoral fraud should represent a concern for any legitimate democracy, especially in developing nations like South Africa. Locally, voting methodologies are dated compared to the digital growth seen in other African countries like Namibia, Kenya and Ghana, where biometric digital voter registration and voting is already in play.

Gur Geva, Founder and CEO of iiDENTIFii, the market leader in biometric identity, says: “The benefits of introducing facial verification into voter registration not only secures the electoral process, but mitigates the risk of voter fraud related to identity theft and political manipulation.

In response to the concerning debate around racial bias in biometric recognition software, Geva adds: “Our developers have spent years coding a tenacious face verification software service that protects online and offline identity and respects ethnic diversity.”

Geva adds that racial bias will be further mitigated as more African countries begin to invest in progressive biometric technologies. Simply put, more accurate population data can be procured as each legitimate citizen gains access to digital identification documents.

As South Africa appears set to progress with its digital roll-out of various identity documents, enabling digital voter registration would be a logical next step. The introduction of electronic voting with biometric facial verification methods ensures a critical and convenient public service is secured to the utmost extent.

Geva says: “While South Africa looks set to progress with electronic voting, our country still faces challenges presented by identity fraud. In general terms, identity theft is considered a silent crime and can go undetected for months, but it has devastating impacts not only on the individual, but larger institutions within the public and private sectors as well.”

Trans Union, South Africa’s largest credit bureau, claims that identity theft is a rapidly growing crime with a legitimate identity being stolen every two seconds.

Geva elaborates: “Identity theft is a booming business with organised syndicates operating in suburban neighbourhoods. Identities can be stolen on an individual level, or in massive data breaches where personal banking information is hacked and sold on the dark Web.”

With a street value of R3 000, a fraudulent identity profile can gain access to a variety of public services like housing, schooling, medical care and voting, often leaving the individual or government in dire straits.

Although the implementation of a digital identity system may take some time, the International Institute of Electoral Assistance (IDEA) released a report supporting the introduction of biometric technology in elections as a method of not only protecting a person’s identity, but simultaneously, voter status and overall democratic integrity.

Geva concludes: “By securing identity legitimacy within government’s census and electoral procedures, a seed movement is created that will expedite the fight against identity theft, curbing the risk of criminal activities such as voter fraud.”

Editorial contacts
Co-CEO Gur Geva (0861) 101 101
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