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Pakistan Faces Security Challenge with Viisage

When it comes to fighting fraud and terrorism, you can never have enough technology. That's the message from Pakistan, which has tapped Viisage Technologies as part of an upgrade of its smart passport and national ID program.

The Billerica, Mass., firm's biometric and database systems will become part of a wide-ranging security initiative that combines face and fingerprint readers with Radio Frequency Identification and other technologies.

The contract flows through National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA), a company that has already installed a machine-readable passport system for country's government.

NADRA's passports use a 2-D bar code and encrypted data in a chip. The company said identity theft and fraud are serious problems in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. NADRA also has plans to market its products internationally.

"We have taken significant steps in Pakistan to protect our citizens and show social responsibility to the international community by verifying a person is who he or she claims to be before allowing that individual to enter and exit the country," Saleem Ahmad Moeen, NADRA's chairman, said in a statement.

NADRA will use Viisage's FaceTools product to compare a subject's image in a national ID database of more than 40 million pictures. Additionally, the company's FaceExplorer to check for duplicates and screen images against watch lists.

Terms of the contract between Viisage and NADRA were not disclosed. A Viisage spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Pakistan's move to enhance its national ID system occurs when similar efforts in the United States are drawing criticism from civil rights and privacy advocates.

The ACLU is warning that these RFID-enabled passports, which are currently being considered by the U.S. government, will let third parties skim the information.

For example, a store could gather the names and addresses of shoppers, while terrorists could single out the Americans in a group of tourists.