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American National Standard for Biometric Data Supports Criminal Justice Efforts

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a revised American National Standard (ANS) for biometric data that vastly expands the type and amount of information forensic scientists can share across their international networks to identify victims or solve crimes.

ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011, NIST Special Publication 500-290 Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information, defines the content, format, and units of measurement for the electronic exchange of fingerprint, footprint, palm print, facial/mug shot, scar, mark & tattoo (SMT), iris, DNA, and other biometric information that may be used in the identification or verification of a subject.

The standard is intended for use by criminal justice administrations or organizations that rely on automated identification systems or other biometric and image data for identification purposes. According to NIST, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and others are already in the process of adopting the new standard.

The standard was expanded to address new types of biometric data, including DNA and footprints. The first standard for the exchange of DNA data, ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 can be used in cases where DNA is used for criminal case identification, as well as in forensic settings to identify victims or establish kinship with purported relatives. Also newly added is an Extended Feature Set (EFS) for forensic examiner markups that allow for marking and exchanging latent ridge print information - including fingerprints, palm prints, and footprints - to ensure that analysts use the same terminology, references, and procedures to describe details such as pores and linear discontinuities. Another addition is the ability to share images of body parts and anthropometric markups of face and iris images.

According to NIST, the revised standard also now defines how to specify and share geo-positioning coordinates of biometric sample collection. Information related to the circumstances surrounding the biometric data collection can also be included. This includes pictures of items found around the crime scene and audio and video clips. Data handling logs show chain-of-custody of the biometric data for legal purposes, including the steps needed to prepare biometric sampled for processing in a matching system.

NIST reports that researchers are already are at work on new additions to the standard, which will include voice biometrics, traumatic injury imaging and analysis, dental forensics, and conformance testing to the standard specifications.

Developed by NIST's Information Technology Laboratory, the update to the standard involved nearly 70 voting organizations participating in 16 working groups over a two-year period.

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Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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