Something Beastly This Way Comes: On Federal ID Cards, Iris Imaging In, Fingerprint Swiping Out
By William Jackson
Jul 16, 2012
Updated technical specs for biometric data on federal ID cards include new options for using iris imaging in lieu of fingerprints and dropping swipe sensors as a means of gathering fingerprints for federal employees.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released for comment a second draft of Special Publication 800-76-2, Biometric Specifications for Personal Identity Verification. The document supports the revised Federal Information Processing Standard 201-2, also now in draft form, and when finalized will replace the current 2007 version of the specs.
SP 800-76 spells out the technical requirements for biometric data that is used for authentication on PIV cards used by federal workers and contactors. The interoperable electronic IDs were mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 and are supposed to be used both for physical and logical access.
The specifications describe technical acquisition and formatting requirements for the PIV system and establish minimum accuracy requirements for biometric authentication. Fingerprint templates remain the primary means of PIV biometric authentication, but options are being expanded.
“The addition of iris and face specifications . . . adds an alternative modality for biometric authentication and extends coverage to persons for whom fingerprinting is problematic,” the draft says. FIPS 201 allows the use of iris recognition although it is not required, and technical specification had not before been developed. “The recommendation to agencies to install and operate iris equipment in its PIV issuance processes allows agencies to additionally populate PIV cards with iris as an alternative authentication factor.”