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Citigroup Plans Thumbprint ATMs For India's Poor

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the beware-of-gummi-bears dept.

Businesses 123

Brad Lucier points out a Financial Times report (carried by MSN Money) that Citigroup is rolling out a network of biometric ATMs aimed at illiterate Indian slum dwellers. From the article: "The machines will recognize account holders' thumbprints, eliminating the need for a personal identification number, and will have color-coded screen instructions and voiceovers to help guide them through transactions... Though India's population exceeds 1 billion, Citigroup estimates that there are only about 300 million bank accounts in the country... 'It's not a philanthropic exercise,' [PS Jayakumar, a Citigroup business manager in India] said. 'For it to be sustainable, we should break even and make a little bit of money.'"

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Here is a mirror JIC (1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083856)

Just in case...

Citigroup is rolling out a network of biometric automatic cash machines aimed at illiterate Indian slum dwellers, using the latest technology to woo the country's millions of "unbanked" poor.

The machines will recognise account holders' thumbprints, eliminating the need for a personal identification number, and will have colour-coded screen instructions and voiceovers to help guide them through transactions.

Citigroup has already installed two biometric automatic teller machines, one near a slum district in Bandra, a neighbourhood of Mumbai, India's financial capital, and the other in Hyderabad, south-east India.

It says it aims to expand the network to 25-35 machines within 18 months with a target customer base of about 50,000.

"This is the first time we have used biometric technology for this segment of customers," said PS Jayakumar, a Citigroup business manager in India. "We see this as having the potential for global application in countries that are similar to India."

The venture by the world's largest financial group comes as banks start to appreciate the enormous market potential of India's lower income groups and also begin to target the poor in big emerging market countries such as Brazil and Indonesia.

Though India's population exceeds 1bn, Citigroup estimates that there are only about 300m bank accounts in the country. However, loan repayment rates among the poorest borrowers in micro-finance schemes are about 98 per cent - among the highest in the banking sector.

ICICI, India's largest private sector bank, is leading the push towards banking the country's poor with a rural banking scheme using biometric cards and portable devices to allow illiterate farmers to perform transactions in remote areas.

Until now, most micro-finance initiatives aimed at the lower income groups had emphasised lending, rather than savings accounts, leading low-income earners to keep most of their money under their beds.

Ventures catering for India's poorest are likely to remain marginal earners for the banks for many years.

Mr Jayakumar said Citigroup's scheme aimed to make a profit but he gave no timeframe. "It's not a philanthropic exercise," he said. "For it to be sustainable, we should break even and make a little bit of money."

Krishnan Sitaraman, head of financial sector ratings at Crisil, the domestic credit agency, said Citigroup's biometric ATM network would not be easy to replicate beyond India's urban areas because of the lack of electricity and other facilities in rural areas.

Copyright 2006 Financial Times

Re:Here is a mirror JIC (1)

mojodamm (1021501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084040)

Maybe it's just me, but I don't know if "illiterate Indian slum dwellers" is a demographic I'd want my bank investing vast amounts of capital and new technology into.

Re:Here is a mirror JIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084638)

They'll make up for it in volume.

Hm (5, Insightful)

malkir (1031750) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083866)

So instead of thieves stealing your wallet, they'll just cut off your thumb instead!

Re:Hm (4, Funny)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083924)

The illegal thumb trade is about to take off in India, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, illegal thumb drives are still the domain of the Chinese.

Re:Hm (2, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083928)

That's what I was thinking. This is a country where beggars routinely have limbs amputated by their 'pimps' to get more sympathy from tourists.

Re:Hm (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084322)

"This is a country where beggars routinely have limbs amputated by their 'pimps' to get more sympathy from tourists."

Cite? Documentation of a single such case would be a good start... which should be very easy to do since it happens "routinely."

Re:Hm (1, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084618)

This site attracts such lazy fuckers...

http://www.justfuckinggoogleit.com/search.pl?query =india%20beggar%20amputation [justfuckinggoogleit.com]

Re:Hm (0, Offtopic)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085518)

The links are specially crafted by google to point to digg.com, a new slashdot contender, that points to a lot of videos. Videos/Flash are the ticket to undermining free and open webstandards, that's why they are so heavily pushed, but it'd be hard to and too obvious to push them on slashdot, because everyone would moan too hard here. Why can't there be free video standards everyone adheres to.. well, cuz...

Re:Hm (2, Funny)

DeepZenPill (585656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085906)

Gives new meaning to having your account "hacked."

Re:Hm (1)

XchristX (839963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17087346)

India is hardly the only country in the world where such things happen: Thailand, The Philippines, Countries in South America, Southern Africa all have this problem. In fact, contrary to what some people will tell you, the statistics are more favorable towards India in this regard than other developing countries.

India is a country that constantly defies western classifications.But, of course, whenever an article on India is put up on slashdot, every closet racist troll has to express himself by generating a stereotype. We are not a naturally hesperophobic people (unlike some other countries near us where people are pining to blow you up), but this does not help dispel the stereotype of the television propaganda-blinded
"dumb westerner" (yes, stereotypes feed off of each other) with a bug up his ass about a country that, for all it's flaws, has made significant progress over the years.

Re:Hm (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17088178)

> But, of course, whenever an article on India is put up on slashdot, every closet racist troll has to express himself by generating
> a stereotype.

I'm not sure you can define describing a fact as `generating a stereotype`. It was relevant to the discussion. America has made some progress since lynch mobs murdered innocent people because of the colour of their skin in the last half century or so, but it would still be relevant to mention that fact in a discussion regarding racism. Or would that also be `generating a stereotype`?

Re:Hm (1)

alexjohnc3 (915701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083934)

Sadly, this will probably end up happening. Whoever thought up this great idea apparently didn't think about the consequences much.

Re:Hm (1)

Bush Pig (175019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084764)

It's far more likely they didn't _care_ about the consequences.

Re:Hm (1)

cluckshot (658931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085640)

Thumb print biometrics is for better or worse nothing more nor less than a password that never changes. All that will be needed to steal it it to cause someone to get their thumb print or finger prints read once, like offering a cheap toy or a prize if you sign on with your thumb print. Then either a fake thumb or a code signal intercept will be done and instantly Identity theft will hit a new stride. Warning for anyone using biometrics as ID, this is a sucking security hole!

Re:Hm (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086266)

Going by the Mythbusters episode on the subject, it seems that it wouldn't be very hard at all to fake identity. They managed to lift a print off a CD case and do all sorts of fun things. One reader was fooled by nothing more than a black and white printout of the fingerprint. I can't for the life of me remember which episode (one of the movie myths ones, I think), but it was a bit concerning to say the least.

Re:Hm (1)

DarksideDaveOR (557444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084128)

Right... I can see the news now: The first of Citigroup's thumbprint ATMs went live today, providing access to bank accounts for thousands of poor, illterate Indians.

In unrelated news, theft of knives and bolt cutters has risen one thousand per cent. Police say they are baffled by this bizarre crime wave.

FOB (1)

addylives (1034802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084240)

Its not going to help. How many atms are they going to set up so that the person does have to be physically present.Its common sense, the id card and certificate should never be the same thing. Its not impossible for people to not lose fingers when getting robbed now - its a clean job for the crook.

Re:Hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084644)

It's relatively simple for a scanner to tell the difference between a live thumb/a dead one (either through measuring blood oxygen saturation or the detection of a pulse). That's not saying that Citigroup would employ this technology and even if they did it might take thieves a few tries before they figure out that dead thumbs don't work.

"Your thumb or your life" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083888)

How soon before the first involuntary customer thumbectomy?

Seriously, how soon before someone makes a wax impression or other fake thumbprint to fool the machine?

Re:"Your thumb or your life" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084890)

Seriously, how soon before someone makes a wax impression or other fake thumbprint to fool the machine?
Considering that what the thiefs payout would likely only be a couple us dollars, not very soon.

Re:"Your thumb or your life" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085212)

Considering that "a couple us dollars" is a fortune to them, I'd say within a few days.

Re:"Your thumb or your life" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17086188)

A wax impression would be a reverse of their thumb prints. Ridges where there would be valleys, and vice versa.

molds to make fake thumbs (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17089322)

I didn't spell out all the details, the point is you can make fake thumbprints.

this is going to leed to allot of... (0, Flamebait)

adaminnj (712407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083894)

Thumbless poor indians.

try to do this in the slumbs of Trenton, Newark, Mexico City, any city or town and no one will be able to pick up there 40.

Re:this is going to leed to allot of... (1)

adaminnj (712407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083946)

charge,, 4 of the same idea in unison.

Re:this is going to leed to allot of... (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083956)

leed to allot

of illiterate Indians?

Re:this is going to leed to allot of... (1)

adaminnj (712407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084450)


I guess I'll shut up now, it's hard to be PC and funny sometimes, and in a hurry to.
Still trying to get first post :)

again I did not meen to offend.

Re:this is going to leed to allot of... (1)

adaminnj (712407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084290)

I guess it was flamebate, Sorry. I deserve that.

New Indian Crime Wave (0, Redundant)

SloWave (52801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083918)

I can see the Slashdot postings now about thieves chopping off poor slum dwellers' thumbs in India so they can steal their debit card balances.

Re:New Indian Crime Wave (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084042)

Doubtful. These accounts are likely to contain a superficial amount of money. Why would the bank do this then? Well, if for example, the balance of these accounts hovered around a measly $1, that's a few million dollars that the bank can use to lend to others that it wouldn't otherwise have. More lending translates into profit. Done.

Leper colonies... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083954)

So will this be extended to the poor lepers who need banking services just like anyone else? Or will another big corporation shun this market segment?

Re:Leper colonies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17087582)

Moderator: Please mod parent down for bad taste...

Re:Leper colonies... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17088066)

I think the moderators need to mod themselves for bad taste. Why mod as funny? Lepers are the most discrimated against people on the planet. I want to know if the bank will be offering thumb-print services to these people or deny them service.

ATM theft (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083964)

Consider the Indian version of the redneck ATM theft: Two Indians break into a store, run a rope in, tie it to the ATM machine, hook it to two oxen and away they go!

Numbers (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083994)

Unless these ATMs hand out 10 bucks (or equivalent) per press the user will still have to understand what they are reading on the screen. I accept that many Indians may not be able to write a letter but surely memorising a four digit PIN is not so hard?

Re:Numbers (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084076)

The display can simply show the remaining money as bills in the local currency, person presses bill on screen and it comes out. If I remember correctly Indian money is both color and size coded for reasons of illiteracy.

Re:Numbers (0, Troll)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084394)

In most countries money is both size and color coded for reasons of convenience. The fact that the US uses bills that are all the same color and size has nothing to do with literacy, and everything to do with being luddites that don't want to get with the times.

Re:Numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084084)

Voice cues, duh.

Also is it so hard to have a picture of the currency that you can push? Instead of saying $10, there's an image of a $10 bill.

But still I think this is just an invitation for muggers to cut people's thumbs off. More sophisticated criminals will create wax casts off lifted prints.

Re:Numbers (1)

Urinal Deuce (1031696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085362)

Or if numbers don't work, maybe use the colours of the spectrum in place of digits? It'd be just as easy to memorize 4 or 5 colours.

Re:Numbers (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086366)

I imagine a lot of illiterate people can still understand numbers.

or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (5, Interesting)

gjuk (940514) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084098)

Citigroup has a target of 50,000 slum-dwelling customers. That means the total deposits might be $100 * 50,000 = $5million. Assuming Citigroup makes 5% on this, it's $250,000 profit opportunity. This barely justifies 25 ATMs and the effort to get these people banking. The reality is that Citigroup is trialling (a) biometrics and (b) low income banking. They are separate trials.. Slashdot readers all know that fingerprint reading has not yet reached the point we'd trust our own bank accounts to it. Citigroup know this too - they are using people with little to lose to carry out large scale experiments. If someone gets 'hacked'- it'll cost $100 to reimburse them. Tops. Much better there than here... Low income banking; China and India account for 1/4 - 1/3 of the world's population - and they are currently not very wealthy. Still, make a margin and there's a good volume. What's more - over time, they may become wealthy and it'd be nice to 'own' these economies...

Re:or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084242)

This is sort of why Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Once people have even a small amount of credit they can start to amass wealth and pull themselves out of poverty. Then you will have their loyalty for life. This is a smart long term strategy from the world's largest company. It isn't going to affect their $120 billion revenue in the short term, but it may have significant importance 20 years from now.

Re:or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (2, Interesting)

baffled (1034554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085246)

According to NIST http://www.epic.org/privacy/biometrics [epic.org] 98.6% accuracy can be achieved with one fingerprint, 99.6% with two, and 99.9% with four or more fingers. Wonder how many fingers they're working with.

Re:or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085638)

Slum dwellers?

If you look at the conditions they live in - no proper place to bathe, cook, defecate - every human activity taking place everywhere in the slum within sight and possibly contact of other activities - I don't think I'd want to use the same ATM that they use.

Re:or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (1)

Kream (78601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086850)

Citigroup has a target of 50,000 slum-dwelling customers. That means the total deposits might be $100 * 50,000 = $5million
$100 per deposit ? You have to be kidding me. $100 works out to 4,467 Indian Rupees. Few can afford to keep that kind of money in a bank. For comparison, the minimum deposit in most savings bank accounts in India is 500 Rupees. And this is quite apart from the fact that Citibank in India is staffed by morons fresh out of college - not bankers.

Re:or: "Test on low exposure customers"... (1)

shyampandit (842649) | more than 7 years ago | (#17088996)

Huh?

I have been to many private banks and they all have atleast a Rs. 5000 minimum deposit! I dont know where you are getting your 500 minimum from (a govt. owned bank I guess..) Citibank has way higher minimum deposit limits the last time I checked.. (Rs. 2 lakhs (~$4700 minimum) for their personal account.. and yes they had called me up to take their rip-off account so I know I got the minimum right..)

Anyways, something about this just does not sound right. First of all the poor people will always prefer govt. banks due to low minimums, no hidden charges and local language staff besides other reasons.. They dont require ATM's or net/phone banking and its associated costs.

Who is going to use this?

It's India and they're poor! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084102)

If they are poor, then they won't have any money to withdraw from the ATM.
That's unless the Banks etc., start to give them credit/loans.
Seems like the carrot and stick method for a new market, take loans/credit out with us and we'll make Billions.
I see lots of people going bankrupt in India in the future.

Re:It's India and they're poor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084266)

"I see lots of people going bankrupt in India in the future."

Dr. Evil... this, too, has already happened!

Re:It's India and they're poor! (1)

Afecks (899057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085068)

1. Lend money to people that can't afford to pay you back.
2. ???
3. Profit!

correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084114)

Carnage Blender [carnageblender.com]

Mixed feelings (2, Insightful)

DebateG (1001165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084122)

We should ignore for a moment the security and technological issues here. Instead focus on the interaction of technology, culture, and society. What Citi is doing is adding a high-tech, complex device in a abysmally poor and illiterate culture. There are a few major issues with this.

It is very unlikely that illiterate farmers will understand how exactly these ATMs work or for that matter, the banking system itself (which is so complex that most Americans don't understand all the fees and restrictions involved). This can inevitably lead to Citi, knowingly or unknowingly, taking advantage of these people who do not have the education, finances, and political power to protect themselves.

Although the farmers will hopefully be earning interest on these accounts, that interest really doesn't benefit the community. Think about it this way: you run to your local Citi branch and they lend out your money. The interest earned on those loans pays shareholders, the clerks at the desk, and the loan officers. All of these benefactors are members of your community. Do you really think these poor Indian farmers are going to work at the bank, either being a teller or repairing the ATM's? No, it will benefit the wealthier Indians and the international shareholders.

While it's great that Citi is trying to tap this market, they could've gone about it much better. They could've set up a physical branch, employed the more ambitious farmers, and helped pull these people out of poverty. Muhammad Yunus showed that simple systems such as micropayments could be profitable and beneficial for the community. I think he also showed that the poor doesn't need to be just another marker share; instead, you can simultaneously invest in people and reap a dual reward.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Insightful)

ebers (816511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084490)

> It is very unlikely that illiterate farmers will understand how exactly these ATMs work or for that matter, the banking system itself (which is so complex that most Americans don't understand all the fees and restrictions involved). This can inevitably lead to Citi, knowingly or unknowingly, taking advantage of these people who do not have the education, finances, and political power to protect themselves.

Illiteracy != stupidity. These farmers aren't from Mars; they can understand the concepts of fees and a balance just as well as the typical American. Will citibank try to exploit their illiteracy by complicating the fee structure to the point where it cannot possibly be remembered? Perhaps, but that isn't really any different than the mountains of legalese they throw at literate people. Besides that, word will spread quickly if people find that the banks are ripping them off, and no one will make deposits anymore, and then Citibank will just be left with an unused banking apparatus and a bad reputation.

> Although the farmers will hopefully be earning interest on these accounts, that interest really doesn't benefit the community. Think about it this way: you run to your local Citi branch and they lend out your money. The interest earned on those loans pays shareholders, the clerks at the desk, and the loan officers. All of these benefactors are members of your community. Do you really think these poor Indian farmers are going to work at the bank, either being a teller or repairing the ATM's? No, it will benefit the wealthier Indians and the international shareholders.

Yes, the interest will probably not stay in the community. But there is a considerable benefit in having one's money stored in the bank, rather than as a stack of bills at home, which has to be guarded. Given a choice between stashing your savings in a bank at zero interest or keeping a big wad of cash at home, you'd go with the bank, right?

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

The Man (684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086904)

Besides that, word will spread quickly if people find that the banks are ripping them off, and no one will make deposits anymore, and then Citibank will just be left with an unused banking apparatus and a bad reputation.

Which is exactly what has happened in the United States. Angry about ever-escalating fees (bank fees have risen more or less continuously for the past decade, and are growing far faster than inflation) - fees which for most banks and credit-card issuers now constitute most of their profitability - millions of Americans have withdrawn their money from the banking system, cut up and paid off their credit cards, and left thousands of abandoned branches and ATMs in their wake.

Reality check. Choice in banking is limited in most states by the requirement that all banks be corporations; private corporations are legally obligated to obtain for their shareholders the highest possible returns on their capital. In practice this means that if one bank has found a way to extract more money from its customers, all others will and in many cases MUST utilise the same or similar strategies. The end result is that banking is fairly expensive for all but the wealthiest customers - those whose astronomical asset and loan balances provide the banks with sufficient incentive to waive the fees that would otherwise be charged - even those who are responsible and prudent in their use of the bank's services. Credit unions offer some relief, but not much: both their fee structures and their interest rates look remarkably similar to those of banks. I'd love to know why this is; their status as cooperatives ought to free them from the need to keep up with the banks' predatory practices, but that doesn't appear to be the case. At an initial guess, I might suspect a selection bias - credit union customers might be inherently less prudent or creditworthy than banks' customers, leading the CUs to charge higher fees to recoup losses and discourage bad behaviour. But that's nothing but a guess; I'd be in no way surprised to learn that the actual cause is something else altogether.

Anyway, in an even less well-regulated environment, in which competition from even other foreign banks is likely to be limited or nonexistent, I'd be very surprised if Citi doesn't turn the screws to their customers just as they have in the US. Again, they are effectively obligated to do so by law, especially since most investors - the people in a position to force the issue - are overwhelmingly focused on the short- and immediate-term success of the operation rather than its prospects for long-term expansion and customer goodwill. About the only limits on their activity will be attention from Indian regulators and outrage at home; neither seems especially likely given what we see already. Customer revolts against the entire (overwhelmingly uniform) banking industry simply don't happen. They could, but they don't.

Kind of Scary... (2, Informative)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084160)

Being a former Citi employee, I can say I don't have a whole lot of confidence in this. Citibanks own internal biometric attempts have been disastrous, and this was in a controlled population of 4000 in one off their service centers. Half the time the biometric readers wouldn't acknowledge the thumbprints as being valid, some people were able to use other login ID's with their own thumb prints, and that was if and when the readers themselves were even working. They had limited success, and I believe they even abandoned the project. Considering that fiasco, I am surprised that they would proceed to a much wider audience.

Considering these results I don't think chopping off thumbs will even be necessary...

So... how many (1)

FunkeyMonk (1034108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084200)

"illiterate Indian slum dwellers" need bank accounts and easy access to their cash?

Re:So... how many (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084300)

No, but Citibank needs a cheap, nearly liability-free way to test out large-scale biometric deployments.

Re:So... how many (1)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085988)

They're drawing a steady paycheck working for Citibank as outsourced CSRs.

Give a man a fire (1, Troll)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084230)

Maybe while they're at it, they could teach the user to read a new word with every use.

Re:Give a man a fire (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084374)

Why?

Re:Give a man a fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17086316)

Maybe while they're at it, they could teach the user to read a new word with every use.
Why? So they can be literate slum dwellers? It's not their lack of eduction and that has failed them, it's their government and their backwards society that has failed them.

Re:Give a man a fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17088152)

> Why? So they can be literate slum dwellers? It's not their lack of eduction and that has failed them, > it's their government and their backwards society that has failed them. That doesn't really make sense. If they had better skills then they would have a better chance of getting a better job. (Having said that ATM's probably not the best way of teaching, and it would be more useful for them to learn to write their local language first)

Gummy Bear Sales to Skyrocket? (3, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084256)

Re:Gummy Bear Sales to Skyrocket? (1)

blindseer (891256) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084982)

Fooling the thumb print scanners was also in a Mythbusters episode. They fooled the "unfoolable" with a spit moistened photocopy (IIRC). I have little faith in such technology.

Free money? (1)

pesc (147035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084328)

The machines will recognize account holders' thumbprints, eliminating the need for a personal identification number

Why can't these idiots ever understand that fingerprints aren't secrets?

So now I can collect a fingerprint from someone (you know you leave them on everything you touch, right?) and have instant access to their bank account?

Mandatory reading for biometric proponents: Fun with fingerprint readers [schneier.com]

Re:Free money? (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085058)

There are fingerprint scanners that can detect a pulse, so a dead finger won't work, and it might also make forged fingerprints useless.

The fingerprint is a what-you-are item, instead of a what-you-have item like an ATM card. It has the benefit that you can't easily lose it. That is, once it is clear that a cut-off thumb doesn't pay up. Which might take a disappointingly long time.

A PIN code is a what-you-know item, which should be combined with one of the above items, but if the fingerprint reader can reliably detect whether or not the fingerprint is real, you can assume it can detect whether the account holder is at the ATM.

A PIN code would increase the security somewhat, but it is also an additional hurdle, especially for non-literate people. However, they might have a good memory (they can't write down anything, so they'll have to remember things instead), so why not replace the numbers with stylized pictures? Examples would be (imagine the kind of pictures you see on traffic signs):

banana elephant tree house train bird boat sun face fork

Maybe they should make it optional, so that people who do not understand the idea of a secret code to protect their money, don't need to use it. If the scanner is secure, it should add little extra safety anyway, I think. (But, a secure scanner is probably more expensive. Also, a non-secure scanner + password combination can still be defeated through social engineering or coercion.)

I think they should just put a guard next to every ATM, who can verify that the person withdrawing money isn't being coerced, and there are no games being played with fake or dead thumbs. But that is expensive and the guard can be bribed.

All in all, I think using just a thumbprint should be secure enough IFF the scanner is secure.

Re:Free money? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085296)

There are fingerprint scanners that can detect a pulse, so a dead finger won't work,

1) Print readers do exist that can detect warmth, the electro-conductivity of the finger, and pulse. These readers are more expensive, and less reliable. Do you really think a bank would risk pissed off customers because no one who forgot their gloves on a cold day could withdraw their money from an ATM?

2) It's rather easy to make a thin overlay they fits on a finger, but has someone else's print. (See the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever for an example from 35 years(!!) ago). These can be made thin enough that your own heat and pulse can be read thru them.

How does this work? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084398)

How are they going to do this for (potentially) a billion users? I thought fingerprints had fairly low entropy... won't there be collisions?

Re:How does this work? (1)

fltsimbuff (606866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17089106)

I would assume you would still need to swipe your card. While your fingerprint may match someone else's the chance of someone stealing your card, and having the same print as you at the same time is almost nil.

It's another step in total global biometric ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084476)

India and then Indonesia and Brazil? Well, that's a good start.

Combine the fact that US citizens will need a passport to return to their own country, meaning pretty much most of us will get one, with the recent change that all US passports contain biometric ID...

US, India, Indonesia and Brazil. That's biometric IDs in place on, what, half the planet?

I'm trying hard not to be a NWO conspiracy theorist, but I don't like this trend.

LG

ATMs for the poor? (1)

dekkerdreyer (1007957) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084620)

Why do poor people need better access to ATMs?

Re:ATMs for the poor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085204)

So they can keep what money they do have in the bank instead of in cash where it is easily stolen? How many slum dwellers have decent locks on their houses?

What I wonder is how much is the withdrawal fee going to be (if anything) and whats the minimum amount anyone is going to be able to withdraw. Considering many of the poor in India earn less than $1 per day they are going to want to withdraw very small amounts. Here in the UK the minimum most machines will give you is £10 (nearly $20 at today's rates) and I've found in the eurozone countries the minmum is often EUR 20, this represents nearly a month's wages for many Indian's and would be the equivalent to a european being given a minmum withdrawal limit of EUR 2000. I guess this might be ok if your withdrawing all or a large chunk of your savings to make a big purchase, say paying for medical treatment but its probably not a common event.

Re:ATMs for the poor? (1)

febuiles (743020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085562)

All the little details as being able access an ATM (even if you dont use it) help improve quality of life, one less preocupation.

Re:ATMs for the poor? (1)

JoeBackward (1034674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085754)

Why do poor people need ATMs?

Grameen Bank (whose founder Mohammed Yunis just got the Nobel Peace Prize) built a mobile phone system in Bangladesh for poor people. This allows them to do things like find buyers for the shirts they make using the sewing machines they bought with the $75 they borrowed from Grameen.

The article about CITI says this:

Until now, most micro-finance initiatives aimed at the lower income groups had emphasised lending, rather than savings accounts, leading low-income earners to keep most of their money under their beds.

Ventures catering for India's poorest are likely to remain marginal earners for the banks for many years.

I suspect the problem is much worse than money in jars under beds. I suspect that all kinds of middlemen gouge these poor people when they try to get their payments from their customers. I suppose various kinds of bandits prey on them too. Also, no doubt the Grameen borrowers' husbands (they're well over 90% women) sometimes raid their savings. So a biometric ATM and wire transfer system may be a very good thing, as long as CITI doesn't gouge these people too viciously.

I wonder what Younis thinks of this initiative?

Social Darwinism (1)

twebb72 (903169) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084628)

1.) Social Darwinism should be paramount here -- if they can't help themselves then no one can. 2.) Poor don't trust banks (come visit poor, mostly African American areas or Atlanta, there are check cashing businesses and western unions no more than a mile apart -- you don't see these anywhere but poor neighborhoods). This is not a good business plan for any bank -- trying to squeeze money out of people that simply don't have any.

Re:Social Darwinism (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086222)

Poor don't trust banks

Wrong -- banks don't trust the poor. If you don't have a steady income to the bank, they do obnoxious things like hold the check until it completely clears, or impose an arbitrary service fee that the not-poor not only barely notice, but actually don't have.

Check-cashing locations exist because the annoyance of banking as a poor American is greater than 10% of their wages. (Hint: if we wanted to give the poor the advantage of banking, we'd require that ALL employers offer direct deposit, even at a certain fee schedule.)

Problem solved eh? (1)

Micklewhite (1031232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084652)

You know this makes perfect sense. Every year I give money to UNICEF and every year it's the same bloody thing. People over in the third world are still starving. All this time I've been asking what the hell have they been doing with all that money they get.. And now I understand.. The starving people in the third world just can't take it out of their bank accounts.

Bejesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084724)

Of course, a bio ATM! Just what India's poor slum dwellers have been crying out for. Mattress not good enough anymore?
ha ha! stupidity at it's best.

and LOL! the 'image word' for this post was 'leprosy' chuckle! gaffaw! howl!

YOU FAIL IT? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17084776)

Already in place in Singapore (1)

todesengel (722281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084844)

Citigroup rolled this out in Singapore a month or two ago, here's a pretty good overview [engadget.com]

Profit? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17084968)

1. Introduce biometric ATM authentication for the poor in India
2. Give bank accounts to the poor in India (you know, people who have no money to deposit)
3. ????????
4. Profit(?)

What a f'd up idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085088)

I agree with everybody here. This has gotta be a real bad joke!

Corporate morality (1)

baffled (1034554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085180)

'For it to be sustainable, we should break even and make a little bit of money.'
Yes, it'd be tragic if Citigroup provided a service that benefited millions of poor people and they'd have to pay for it.

Star Trek reference (1)

go-nix.ca (581096) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085268)

Every mention of fingerprint-based "security" always brings to my mind a line from ST:TNG. I paraphrase (because I don't remember the exact words):

"I assume your hand will open this door whether you are conscious or not."
    -- Data to the time traveller from the past

Banking in India... (1)

bayankaran (446245) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085488)

'It's not a philanthropic exercise,'

The liberalisation of Indian economy in the 90s, the banking sector had multinational banks entering catering to the upper/middle class. Citigroup is one of those 'new age banks' (as they are called in India). They behave like western financial institutions - high fees, web/telephone connectivity, hidden charges, legalese, and a lot more.

New age banks does not allow provisions like a zero balance account. Older nationalized banks are flexible with such provisions (service may not be efficient) and that is very important for Indians who do not belong to the upper/middle class - the 80% of the population. The 'new age banks' also have aggressive finance/loan schemes and failure to comply with monthly payments (credit cards, vehicle/housing loans etc.) can lead to physical assaults/manhandling by third party collection agents. When such issues happen, the bank schmucks use the usual line of 'we are not aware of the tactics used by our collection agents'.

This experiment by Citibank is for data collection, testing new biometric services etc. - but the motive is not philanthropic nor as a profit center.

Blood (2, Funny)

fyoder (857358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085576)

And if their account is empty, a vein seeking needle will creep up the arm and extract a pint of blood for which their account will be credited. They're working on a method for collecting sperm which doesn't violate public modesty, but have yet to come up with anything that can be field tested. The extraction of organs will likely not appear for some time, as preliminary experiments on monkies have been... messy.

I might be stating the obvious here.... (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086204)

India's poor people are amongst the poorest in the world.

So somebody wants to setup an ATM for them? I certainly don't mean to come off as an insensitive clod but there's some problems with this:

-The friggin' transaction fees are probably more money than they make in a month.
-Poor people don't use banks
-Illiterate people don't have a clue about how or why they would need this

Lastly,
-Poor people work very hard doing manual labor--their hands are very rough and scarred.
I can't get biomentric technology to work consistently for me with my white pasty callus-free thumbs; I can only imagine the frustration that will result from users who have no education, very little money, and fingers that will undoubtedly baffle the biometric software.

I hope Citigroup is thinking about all this, too...

Re:I might be stating the obvious here.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17087996)

This years peace nobelprize went to a Bangladeshi who pioneered banking with loans for very poor people. I don't know how an ATM for poor people would fit into that plan http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates /2006/ [nobelprize.org]

Why India? (1)

2020steve (999594) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086256)

I assume Citi is testing thumbprint ATMs on unbanked and lower income people because the fallout should be more managable if the technology failed. Sounds like a nice test market where you don't have to worry about losing loyal customers with $10k in the bank.

But why India? There are 56 million unbanked people in the US:
http://www.forbes.com/business/2005/02/23/0223find svpunbanked.html [forbes.com]

Citi is the antichrist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17086364)

Is there anyone alive that doesn't yet regard Citi as everything wrong with the world, America, and capitalism?

Citi is as corrupt as corporations get. They see only $$.

When have the Japanese ever disciplined a corporation this harshly? Never.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/19/10955321 76840.html?from=storylhs [smh.com.au]

Die Citi.

Re:Citi is the antichrist: yes yes (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 7 years ago | (#17087586)

I agree so much with this, and, I'm an ex-employee (resigned not fired, BTW!). Citigroup have been involved with Enron, Parmalat and many other pieces of very substantial sleaze. They have a much ethical track record than Microsoft, roughly speaking. Have a look at: http://www.innercitypress.org/citi.html [innercitypress.org] and make your own mind up.

This might be an insensitive question but... (3, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086638)

why is the bank assuming (or even finding) that poor people can't remember pin numbers?

Re:This might be an insensitive question but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17087330)

Why are you assuming that everyone in the world speaks or understands a language as well as you do?

Not so new - ATMs for the poor in Bolivia (1)

empedocles (679389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17086674)

Building a Better ATM [brinq.com]

PRODEM Private Financial Fund has been using specially designed ATMs for poorer communities in Bolivia for several years now. The ATMs uses smart cards, finger prints, and a multilingual voice-driver interface with a color coded system. The cost is about half of the cost of traditional ATMs.

From the World Resources Institute:
Serving the Poor Profitably in Bolivia [wri.org]

At first glance, the largely illiterate and impoverished villages of indigenous peoples nestled in the rural jungles of Bolivia do not appear to offer substantial financial opportunities. However, one innovative company saw this vast segment of the Bolivian population not as an obstacle to economic success, but as an untapped opportunity.

The World Resources Institute has written a case study on them too:
http://www.digitaldividend.org/pdf/prodem.pdf [digitaldividend.org]

customer satisfaction (1)

thekaran (588921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17087388)

I have seen ATM security men helping illiterate ATM users operate their ATM account. Thumbprints and voice commands would now avoid those situations. Certainly a move towards better customer satisfaction.

Money balance? (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17088072)

Just how much money are they spending developing, producing and deploying all of these biometric ATMs for "India's poor and illiterate"

Wouldn't it be more cost effective to just teach them how to use the ATM when they sign up for an ATM card?

Fingerprint Scanners Fooled By Play-Doh (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17088500)

"biometric security measures were fooled 90% of the time by simple attacks like Play-Doh molds [slashdot.org] "

Highly Misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17088600)

This is totally misleading. I live in India, CitiBank's target profile is the high-end customer, they actively discourage lower end customers, they work mainly with corporates, they discourage bank visits and focus on delivering services online. This rules out the bulk of the indian population and leaves the cream. I don't have a problem with their business strategy, if this is how they want it, but they should not be hypocritical about this. This is most likely an experiment.
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