You can replace neither a document nor a person. For the time being

Security documents experts around the world met in London last week. At SDW event, you could see lectures and presentations, meet innovations, take part in discussions. We will be returning to main points of SDW at our blog. In this article, we focus on a fundamental presentation by Silvia Kolligs-Tuffery from European Commission where an anti-counterfeiting action plan is currently under preparation.

Her speech was a positive surprise for everybody, who expected a boring bureaucrat and endless list of rules and documents. Mr. Kolligs-Tuffery is a policewoman who seems to understand her work, is experienced enough and can view issues from a broader perspective. We try to sum up the basic philosophy explained by her because it is relevant for document producers and document issuers.

The important thing is between people, explains the EU policewoman. A person needs to be sure that another person is what he/she claims to be. A document is just a tool for making it easier.

In some situations, identity can be checked by a machine (e.g. automated entrance control), but often it is not possible for reasons such as enforcement application. Can a computer decide about someone’s arrest? Can it decide about using of strength in case of resistance?

There is a discussion about enforcement automation in the USA. It has been suggested that some areas can be guarded with drones. If you enter a forbidden zone, a flying chick would be able to check your identity and possibly arrest you. It would be equipped with a gun in case you try to resist. However, European legislation will no follow this direction.

Identity check is a process between two persons and the key tasks is to ensure that a „bodyguard“ ( a favorite term of Mrs. Kolligs-Tuffery) can do his job. It is about motivation and skills. In this area, we meet two groups of possible difficulties.

Firstly. Poor documents.  If the anti-counterfeit protection level is too low and portrait photography too doubtful, a bodyguard feels frustrated and digress to only a formal check. Attackers that would be otherwise identified through suspicious attributes will not be detained.

Secondly. Automated check, e.g. through comparison with a database information. Providing a bodyguard with such tools is great. However, if it is too easy, our bodyguard starts to rely on a machine, and his work is more and more reduced to entering data into a system. The process between two people disappears, the bodyguard can be replaced by a robot.

To sum up. We need reliable documents and excellent training. Reliability of document means here that identification of a forgery is easy even for „ordinary bodyguard.“ Such documents should be issued by all EU member states and states connected with EU with agreements. Training is critical so that the guard can check security elements on the documents. However, analysis behavior and identify suspicious signs are even more important.

It is also important to separate automated check from a personal check by a bodyguard. Both are critical. Integrating into a single comprehensive control would mean that both lost their meaning.

By the way, are you sure that police officers in your country know key protective elements on documents they often meet? Can they check them?

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