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Finland plans personal ID number overhaul, may add biometrics

Finland is exploring ways to renew the country's personal identification number system. The head of the government working group on the issue says biometrics - like fingerprints - could be incorporated into the new ID scheme.

Kuva vuoden 2017 alussa käyttöön otettujen uusien passien ja henkilökorttien ulkoasusta.
Example of Finnish identity card. Image: Poliisi

The Finnish government has set up a working group to assess how the country should update its personal ID number system. The group will also examine whether all current and active ID numbers of millions of residents would be replaced with new ones.

Korpisaari, who is a communications law professor at the University of Helsinki and chair of the working group, says that Finland hasn't quite run out of ID numbers just yet - but because of the way the current system is set up - they could run out if a very large number of people would need to be registered on the exact same day.

According to the current system, introduced in 1964, the first six digits indicate the ID-holder's date of birth and the three-number series that appears after the birth date identify the ID-holder's gender. Odd numbers are men, even numbers are women.

Korpisaari says that having the gender identification hard-wired into the ID number has proven problematic in light of Finland's expanding transgender community.

New ID system may feature biometric link

Another reason Finland is looking at ways to change the ID system is the relatively recent development of undocumented residents living in the country. Korpisaari says that adding a biometric aspect to the IDs - like a person's fingerprints - would assist in identifying residents who do not have a passport or other ID.

"They may have received several different electronic identities which they use with various authorities. We are considering whether we should include a biometric identifier to eliminate this problem," Korpisaari says.

If a new ID system is implemented, the group will also discuss whether current ID numbers would be replaced or if people would be able to continue using the old ones.

Government has plans to carry out eventual reforms to the ID system by the end of 2019.

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