France, Biggest Identify Theft Victim, To Create Smart Cards To Prevent It

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France is one of the countries with the biggest incidence of identity theft, with 80,000 cases per year, according to the French Interior Ministry, in a story at net-security.org.

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to crimes in which someone fraudulently gets and uses another person's personal data, “typically for economic gain,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

So the French National Assembly has decided to issue a smart ID card to citizens to protect them against identity theft, and also offer a new way to deal with administration services, the story reports. But before this can be done, the government has to focus on how readers of these smart cards will be distributed. The market for “government and IDs” has exploded worldwide, according to the latest report from Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm, reaching “198 million unit shipment in 2011, with a market growth rate of 4.2 per cent (2010-2011),” according to the story.

Identities used to be validated using a password, says the Smart Card Alliance. But that won’t work in today’s highly connected world. Passwords are slowly being replaced by biometric systems that can identify a person by his facial features, fingerprints, handwriting or even his irises.

“The French eID card program is conveyed to tackle the identity theft problem, which is of growing importance in the country,” Jean-Noel Georges, global director, smart cards practice, at Frost & Sullivan told net-security.org. “The proposed solution is a smart card with two chips: one including personal data with biometric information, and a second one for e-services, with the latter usage optional only.”But this presents some dilemmas for the French government, according to the story.  A database must be set up to “collect, store and manage all the biometrics and personal information data,” the story says.  And there is also the privacy issue.  For this potential problem, France has made the decision to limit database access to authorized persons only, using a professional smart card that can be validated.  Only certain pre-authorized persons will be able to use the card, ensuring privacy, the story says. Another issue “is the national ID card usage for e-commerce and interaction with the administration by using e-services,” Jean-Noel Georges was quoted in the story. “To allow a French citizen access to the digital world by using a digital signature, the need of an external reader is mandatory.”

The story notes that this might significantly hinder the adoption of e-services, “if the French Government will not push for smart card reader deployment.” Despite the real threat of identity theft, France is still using driver’s licenses or national ID cards for identification and validation, and needs to move into the digital world, the story advises.

“The country should follow Germany’s steps and move forward to be a part of the digital world by employing advanced technologies and promote them among citizens,” the story states.


Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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