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Biometric Standards and Technology Face 2004 Deadline at U.S Borders

New York, Sep 11, 2003

At the second anniversary of September 11, the U.S. government has advanced its tactics in a new era of international border control and airport security to ensure the safety of its citizens and visitors.

Biometric technology has been used for years as a method to secure sensitive corporate and government facilities by identifying and confirming a person’s identity based on physiological or behavioral characteristics. Biometric systems use technologies such as fingerprint matching, face recognition, iris identification and signature or keystroke dynamics.

By the end of this year, U.S. and foreign governments expect to have fingerprint and face scanners in place at air and sea ports. Early next year, U.S. officials will issue biometric visas and passports to travelers as a means of preventing the entrance of terrorists and immigration violators while still allowing travelers to enter without delay.

But the biggest challenge will be to meet the Oct. 26, 2004, deadline set by Congress for providing the new documents with biometric identifiers to the millions who will need them in order to enter the United States. Upgrading computer systems at border crossings also poses a major hurdle.

Aside from the logistical obstacles, there are problems with the biometric technology itself. No biometric system is perfect. At some point, all either falsely match some people with images on file or fail to properly recognize them. When the sensitivity of biometric systems is adjusted to reduce one type of error, the likelihood that another kind will occur generally increases.

Sorting out such errors could lengthen lines at travel checkpoints, possibly hurting trade or tourism. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), facial recognition systems in 2001 and 2002 added 9.5 seconds to the process of passing through a doorway. And as the watch lists of wanted suspects grow, face-recognition systems – the technology preferred by the U.N. agency that sets travel standards – continue to struggle to identify people.

However, biometric standardization is the beginning of a more accurate, more reliable, and continually improving system. The InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) has begun to pave the way with three new biometric standards, which have successfully completed public review and are expected to be published as American National Standards by the end of the year.

  • INCITS 379, Information technology - Iris Image Interchange Format
  • INCITS 378, Information technology - Finger Minutiae Format for Data Interchange
  • INCITS 377, Information technology - Finger Pattern Based Interchange Format

The standards community, biometrics industry leaders, and other technology experts will converge September 22-24, 2003, for the 2003 Biometric Consortium Conference to showcase recent advances in the field and to examine technological and security issues facing the biometrics industry. The two-and-half-day conference will include a special session on research that will address topics such as the societal and political implications of deploying biometrics as well other presentations, seminars and panel discussions on biometric-based solutions for homeland security. ANSI staff will be in attendance at booth #202. Members and other interested parties are invited to stop by and find out how ANSI is addressing urgent national priorities and efforts that support homeland security.

The Biometric Consortium Conference provides a forum to discuss government and commercial implementations and initiatives, recent advances on the technology as well as biometric business models. Standards developments, research and evaluation of biometric technologies will also be addressed.

The Biometric Consortium Conference is scheduled for September 22-24, 2003 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

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