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Barcodes: Do They Help or Hinder ID Verification?

Posted on: June 10th, 2015

"Swipe your card, please." It's a request most of us make, or follow, many times a month and with multiple cards. According to David Myers, a forensic science and security expert, barcodes are now used in almost 99% of drivers' licenses, identification cards, and passports issued in the U.S.

Does this "swiping technology" provide a reliable way to verify ID? Not so, says Myers. Contrary to popular belief, the barcode is not a security feature. Counterfeiters have long known how to add fake information to barcodes to match the personal data on the front of the card, and these fake documents are now commonplace. For that reason, a barcode should never be used to authenticate a cardholder's identity.

Exactly what data does a barcode contain? It typically contains the cardholder’s name, date of birth, address and expiration date (already printed on the front of the card) – all of it readable by anyone with a simple 2D barcode reader.

The good news is that today's technology allows card manufacturers to build other, more sophisticated security features into driver's licenses and ID cards. These features--which include UV imaging, microprinting, optical variable ink, and more—are difficult and expensive for counterfeiters to duplicate.