As from 1st October 2013, all citizens of the Republic of Mauritius, who already have an ID card, should replace it with a new ID card.
The Government wants to provide all Mauritians with a high-security ID card linked to a new population database to serve as an ID document to prove identity and to allow more secure and reliable access to government e-services.
With this new form of identification and authentication, we will only need to carry one identity document instead of multiple documents. Maybe we won’t need to have our driving licenses with us all the time as all policemen will have identity card readers and real-time access to the population database. Another stated benefit is that people will also be able to access Governmental eservices at home or at work using their personal identity card readers.
What data is stored?
As pictured above, the following information is going to be printed on the front of the card:
- A black and white photo
- The ID Number
- Surname, first name and surname at birth
- Gender (“M”, “F”)
- Date of birth
- SC logo for Senior Citizens to access benefits such as the bus pass
On the back of the card, we will have:
- A barcode, presumably to make the ID card number easier to read by a machine
- A card control number, presumably to check whether the ID card number (encoded in the barcode) has been read properly
- The ID Number of the person again
- The Date of issue
- The name in case there is not enough space to print the name on the front side of the card
In addition to the printed information, the ID card is a smart card and contains a chip which will store the following data:
- The photo, ID number, surname, first name, surname at birth, gender, date of birth
- The residential address
- Four fingerprint templates (2 thumb and 2 index fingerprints by default)
- A digital certificate
Note that the residential address is not printed on the card. Someone stealing your ID card won’t know where you live…
What is a fingerprint template?
The chip will only store a mathematical model (i.e. a “template”) of the fingerprint, not an actual image. This is mainly for two reasons: (1) the amount of data to be stored is smaller and (2) this makes for faster processing time.
My interpretation of this is that someone accessing a very secure e-service will have to go through a two-step authentication procedure. First, the person will have to insert the ID card in an identity card reader to prove ownership of the card. Secondly, the person will have to scan his fingerprint to prove his identity. This eliminates the case of someone stealing the card of someone else and impersonating him or her. Could this two-step authentication be done otherwise i.e. without resorting to fingerprints? Yes, by using, say, retinal scanners or similar invasive and expensive techniques. My point is that fingerprints are not that bad…
What about data safety?
A digital certificate is stored in the chip of the ID card. This is to ensure that an identity card reader can only read the data on an ID card when validated through the Mauritius National Identity Scheme (MNIS) Certificate Authority. In other words, all stored data is encrypted on the ID card and can only be unencrypted by an identity card reader if and only if the MNIS Certificate Authority approves that.
Furthermore, the whole system is protected by security appliances, access controls mechanisms, security policies, physical security, etc.
It looks like a lot of thoughts has gone into making the system as secure as possible.
The new ID card will only justify its high cost when…
This new ID card will cost a fortune and people need to understand that it is only a means of identifying and authenticating someone.
We will only have a good return on this massive investment if and only if most Governmental services become e-services. It’s high time that we, Mauritians, stop wasting our time having to go to Port-Louis, Phoenix or Ebène just to submit a form. Will this happen soon? I have some doubts…
- The ID card is nothing to worry about in principle.
- Most Governmental services need to become e-services soon or else we’re just wasting tons on money.
[All pictures courtesy of the Mauritian National Identity Card website]