In its today’s session, the Government approved a draft act concerning the creation of a national automated biometric identification system (ABIS) database. The Ministry of the Interior leads the creation of ABIS which allows the state to capture and store biometric personal data – fingerprints and facial images – and to compare biometric data. Efficient authentication and verification of identity helps law enforcement bodies to prevent forgeries and solve crimes, thus having a positive effect on both public order and security.
The ABIS database will store biometric data – fingerprints and facial images which a person gives to the state in the course of a proceeding. In the first stage, the biometric data collected in offence proceedings and currently stored in the National Fingerprint Database will be transferred to ABIS. In the second stage, biometric data collected in administrative proceedings and currently stored in various national databases, e.g. the Identity Documents Database, the Database of Prohibitions on Entry and the Visa Register, will be transferred to ABIS.
“The creation of the ABIS database will improve the capability of personal authentication and verification of identity and thus helps ensure public order and secure identity management. It provides us even a better level of assurance that a person is who he or she claims to be,” Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani said.
According to the Minister of the Interior, the data in the ABIS database will be processed in accordance with all the data protection principles, ensuring the lawful and transparent use of the data. “Only officials who have a legal basis and are specifically authorised will have access to the ABIS database for the purpose of fulfilling their work tasks established by law and they can only process the ABIS data for the purpose of achieving the objective of conducting proceedings,” Jaani explained. The ABIS database will not store people’s biographic data, such as name, date of birth, personal ID code, citizenship and other such. “Those data are and will be in the respective proceedings register, e.g. the Identity Documents Register, the Visa Register, etc. This does therefore not constitute the creation of a ‘super database’ which would contain the personalised data of all the people related to Estonia,” Kristian Jaani added.
According to Margit Ratnik, Head of the Identity and Status Bureau of the Police and Border Guard Board, ABIS will provide an important tool in solving crimes, increasing the capability of the police in detecting identity frauds and thefts. “For instance, someone who has been expelled from Estonia due to a security risk, unlawful employment or a violation of the visa regime has changed his or her name in another country and obtained documents with the new name and attempts to gain a legal basis to come to Estonia with that new name. Thanks to the strong comparing capability of ABIS, the police can determine the previous identity of the person promptly and definitively,” Ratnik said.
Marti Lung, Head of Business Services at the IT and Development Centre of the Ministry of the Interior, says that the comparison engine of the ABIS database uses the world’s leading biometrics algorithms which ensure an accurate and reliable personal identification service. “As the database processes different kinds of personal data, the data in the database are anonymised and the protection of the data is also ensured with other technical and procedural measures. ABIS and the databases interfaced to ABIS will exchange biometric data only in encrypted form and via the X-Road data exchange layer,” Lung explains. He adds that if in common practice biographic data are integral parts of biometrics comparison systems, we do not wish to add personalised data to the ABIS database in order to protect personal data. “We are therefore creating a solution with which we introduce a better level of biometrics comparison capability, while not changing the currently applied personal data processing principles,” the Head of Business Services at the IT and Development Centre of the Ministry of the Interior surmises.
The Government of the Republic decided the creation of the ABIS database in 2017. Besides the Ministry of the Interior, the contributors to the creation of ABIS include the Police and Border Guard Board, the IT and Development Centre of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Estonian Forensic Science Institute. The state’s partners in technical implementation are IDEMIA and Cybernetica AS. Nearly 17 million euros have been allocated for the development and maintenance of ABIS for 2018–2025.
Watch a video about the ABIS database here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFLJlc-7NmU