Town halls to begin taking ID photos to combat identity fraud

Almost 400 municipalities will begin taking their own photos of residents for passports and identity cards. The measure is intended to combat identity fraud and streamline applications, Interior minister Annelies Verlinden said on Tuesday.

Every year, there are several thousand attempts at identity theft by people applying for an ID card using a fraudulent photo, she said. The live enrolment system also means every photo would comply with the requirements in place and prevent staff from having to turn down paid-for photos that do not meet the required standards. 

“Sometimes a photo is overexposed, the dimensions are wrong or the image is too old,” Verlinden said. “If local authority employees take the photos themselves, these validity criteria will be complied with directly, and that will make the work of all staff easier.”

Of the 398 participating municipalities, 249 have received the necessary equipment to begin live enrolment. 

"We are still in the process of perfecting it ... but it is the simplest and most secure option for taking identity photos"

However, professional photographers, who derive a large part of their income from taking passport photos, are opposed to the move, calling it “unfair competition from the government”. 

The industry has proposed an alternative, called live capture, in which the images taken by professional photographers would be sent to the authorities and stored in a centralised, secure system. 

“Experiences abroad have shown that live capture is not always the best solution,” Verlinden said. “Pilot projects based on live enrolment have shown positive results. We are still in the process of perfecting it so it is accessible to as many people as possible, but it is the simplest and most secure option for taking identity photos.”

Local authorities who have not signed up to the new system can do so at a later date, and residents are still free to use a professional photographer or a photo booth. 



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