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Nov 9, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Facial recognition: on-line application for public services coming soon to France

The Alicem facial recognition application designed for the on-line use of public services in France should be available to the general public in November. It has been created to simplify and securitise access to certain administrative services by creating a verified digital identity for each user. 

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Facial recognition could soon be making an appearance to identify on-line users of public services in France and to securitise their connections and their procedures. From November, French residents will be able to download an application called Alicem (an acronym standing for on-line certified authentication via mobile) on their smartphones, according to Bloomberg

The system was slated for launch at the very end of the year, but the government has apparently decided to bring it forward, with tests having been carried out since last June. 

 

Hundreds of administrative services available on line 

 

On its website, the French Ministry of the Interior underlines the security aspect of the app, which was developed in conjunction with the French National Secure Documents Agency (ANTS). "Over 500 public services" will be accessible via facial recognition according to the authorities, with these being administrations with which Internet users can already interact with on line using the FranceConnect system. 

In practical terms, those who want to use Alicem on their smartphones will have to film themselves from different angles and with a variety of facial expressions. That video will then be compared with the photo on the chip of their biometric passport or residence permit. A digital identity will then be generated to give users access to administrative platforms such as for tax and family benefits. 

 

Personal data protected 

 

"Data will not be processed or transmitted to third parties," the Ministry confirmed. The photo found on the identity document will only be stored in the user’s smartphone and the video generated to check the identity will be deleted after use. Despite these precautions, several civil rights bodies have voiced serious concerns about Alicem. 

The French National Commission for Data Protection has expressed a negative opinion, stating that users will not be able to give free consent. An association called "La Quadrature du net" ("Squaring the web") meanwhile lodged a complaint in July with the French Council of State. 

 

Aiming for total digitization 

 

Despite this, the French government is looking to implement the system as a way of simplifying administrative processes and making them more secure. 

Alicem will "contribute to the fight against on-line identity theft, and against cybercrime in general", said the French Ministry for the Interior, which is also aiming for "100% of public services having possible digitized access by 2022". To begin with, the app will only be available on Android telephones. 

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