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Catching Terrorists And Making The World A Safer Place

The 9/11 commission report stated that,

Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers’ licenses. Fraud in identification documentation is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are…

We are now more acutely aware of the threat of terrorism than ever before and every society attempts to protect their citizens from it. Yet we live in a world where travel is easy.  We can move from place to place in a way that our grand-parents never believed possible.

So how do we balance the freedom of movement we have come to expect as hard-working citizens with the need to spot terrorists?  The answer is technology.  Technology plays a massive role in allowing freedom of movement, while also identifying the potential threats.  The core technology to do this is called “Identity Resolution”.  Quite simply,  Identity Resolution enables organizations to search and match people – from almost anywhere!  For example, border security systems use identity resolution technology in conjunction with biometric matching to identify travelers. At a recent Border Security conference in Australia, where both the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security and the Australian Immigration spoke, each of them talked about the need for both approaches to work in a complementary manner.

The vital role of identity resolution is to identify in real-time the potential terrorists from the legitimate travelers.  Many law enforcement agencies around the world use such technology to instantly identity such potential threats without disturbing or delaying legitimate travelers.

Recently, The Center For Digital Government published a white paper entitled “Resolving Identity:  The Importance of Who’s Who and the Search For the Perfect Engine”.  This paper explores the capabilities of technology to fundamentally answer the question of “who is who”?  It’s an important question because, in its simplest form and with regard to individuals, identity resolution must analyze information in different silos such as employment records, tax data, commercial data and government watch lists.  This must be done in order to reconcile various identification records to reach conclusions about the certainty of a particular individual’s identity.

The paper simplifies the situation by considering various examples:

“Consider an individual named William Davis Smith who has multiple record entries in various databases that are available for search. Records might have been generated under a given name, or in such variations as Bill Smith, W.D. Smith, W. Smith or even Davis Smith. By comparing consistencies between underlying factors such as home address, date of birth,  Social Security number or other identifying criteria, an identity resolution engine can eliminate many records from the list of possible matches while confirming others that may not be readily apparent, or available, to the human analyst. Because of search engine technology use, attributes that were not immediately obvious — but that help to establish data connections, such as varying name spellings (or even aliases) — can be resolved to a particular individual because of commonalities in other aspects of the data check (i.e. bank accounts, addresses, phone records). Establishing connections between data that might not otherwise be identified by a human analyst offers a powerful and useful tool in definitively determining identity”.

Identity resolution is critical to helping make our world a safer place.  Indeed, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr Michael Chertoff, commented that “the entirety of our economic livelihood of the 21st century is going to turn in large measure upon our ability to verify identity.”

Identity Resolution is a core component of a data integration platform and yes, it all comes down to our ability to manage data.

Data integration is critical in helping make the world a safer place.

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6 Responses to Catching Terrorists And Making The World A Safer Place

  1. Frank Johnson says:

    Chris,

    I appreciate the information in this article. It was a good read.

    It has been my personal experience that legislation will be one of the biggest obstacles at achieving a global identity database that involved biometrics. Laws currently in place restrict a great deal of data collection. US Federal Regulation (28 CFR part 23 http://www.iir.com/28cfr/FAQ.htm ) has certain restrictions within it that limits having criminal and non criminal information within the criminal intelligence systems.

    This means shared information systems used by law enforcement or any other agency would have to pull information from several databases to validate someone’s identity from biometrics, facial recognition, fingerprint, or images to achieve identity resolution. While that is not impossible, it can be very challenging to say the least.

    Currently agencies are working at using NIEM standards ( http://www.niem.gov ) to share this type of information. This model will unify the data, but doesn’t deal with master data management issues or data quality problems. Since several databases will be used, and identities can and will be duplicated, there will be problems with conflicts related to who’s data is the correct data to process or who’s data is more factual. Since there is no single source of the truth, there are concerns with properly achieving identity resolution.

    I hope this information helps draw some light into problems faced by architects, modelers, developers, and project managers that would work on projects related to this subject matter.

    Frank Johnson

  2. Ivan Chong says:

    Frank

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. There is definitely a balancing act between data sharing and privacy/security. A number of Informatica’s Identity Resolution customers have spoken to us about the challenges you describe in your comments and we are working jointly with them to come up with a solution. As you noted, some of the work involves working with standards being authored by various organizations. Please contact me directly so I can share more detail about the progress being made in this area.

    Ivan Chong
    General Manager, Data Quality
    Informatica Corporation

  3. Bob Barker says:

    Frank,

    Balancing the tension between security and privacy is a key issue that drove us to create Identity Resolution Daily (www.identityresolutiondaily.com) two years ago. After several years working with DHS on airline passenger screening, we’d observed the give and take between the responsibility to secure air travel and the responsibility to preserve individual privacy, and it was clear that getting it right would require continuing dialog between interested parties.

    We referred to this post in our most recent discussion of security and privacy. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    Bob Barker
    Editor, IdentityResolutionDaily.com
    (day job: CMO at Infoglide Software)

  4. JamesDX says:

    Maybe this is me talking nonsense, but it seems like Google isn’t a company run strictly by the top and they seem to be doing quite well.

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