Verify SingPass identity with face scan, OTP to another trusted user

Scan cuts need to key in one-time password, helpful for those abroad without local number

The face verification feature was previously only available to users when setting up the SingPass Mobile app on their smartphones.
The face verification feature was previously only available to users when setting up the SingPass Mobile app on their smartphones. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Residents are now able to verify their SingPass account identity by scanning their faces using computers and camera phones, or by inputting a one-time password sent to another trusted SingPass user.

These two features were made available to all SingPass users accessing government digital services from yesterday.

They come as an addition to existing verification methods such as the SingPass Mobile app and the SMS-One Time Password (OTP), said the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) in a statement yesterday.

To make use of the face verification feature, SingPass users will still need to input their usernames and passwords when logging in to their accounts.

They then authenticate their identities by scanning their faces on an Internet-enabled computer with a Web camera, or a mobile device with a front-facing camera.

People who verify their identities in this way have their faces checked instantly against the national biometric database. This instant verification process involving the database is not available on the SingPass Mobile app.

Mr Kwok Quek Sin, GovTech's senior director of national digital identity, said the agency recognises that some users are not digitally savvy, and cannot navigate smartphones or computers.

"SingPass Face Verification as an alternative 2FA (two-factor authentication) will be especially useful as it reduces the need to key in additional information like one-time passwords.

"This option also serves our overseas Singaporean community who might not have a locally registered number and are unable to receive SMS-OTPs," said Mr Kwok.

Those without the appropriate devices can visit selected locations, such as Our Tampines Hub's Public Service Centre or the Central Provident Fund Board's Bishan Service Centre, to make use of the new identity verification methods.

To prevent fraud, a technology is used to detect and block the use of photographs, videos or masks during the verification process, said GovTech.

Users can also verify their identities by opting for their OTPs to be sent to another trusted user via SMS. The other user can then assist the original user in completing his transactions.

"For example, an elderly parent can choose to link his account to his child's mobile number. With this, the child receives his parent's SMS-OTP when the parent is transacting with SingPass," said GovTech in its statement.

This option can be activated at any SingPass counter. Both parties must be present with their NRIC or FIN to prove they are aware of and accept the terms of use.

The two new verification features were launched ahead of the decommissioning of the OneKey token in end-March next year, said GovTech.

"We are actively facilitating the remaining 120,000 OneKey token users to transit to these alternative 2FA methods through direct mail, digital clinics and digital ambassadors," added the agency.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2020, with the headline 'Verify SingPass identity with face scan, OTP to another trusted user'. Subscribe