Next PIV card could include iris recognition

NIST draft on new specs also explores fingerprint swipes

The technical specifications for biometric data to be used on ID cards mandated for federal employees and contractors under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 are being updated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

NIST has released a draft of Special Publication 800-76-2, "Biometric Data Specification for Personal Identity Verification" that includes requirements for iris recognition and on-card fingerprint comparison. The revision would replace the existing version of the specifications, 800-76-1, published in 2007. It also supports a proposed update of Federal Information Processing Standard 201, the binding parent PIV specification, which also has been released for public comment.

Issuance of interoperable PIV cards was mandated by HSPD-12, and NIST has been charged with developing standards and specifications for the required technology. SP 800-76 describes technical acquisition and formatting specifications for the biometric credentials.


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NIST updates standards for federal electronic ID cards


“The addition of iris specifications in the 2011edition adds an alternative modality for biometric authentication and extends coverage to persons for whom fingerprinting is problematic,” the draft says. “The addition of on-card comparison offers an alternative to PIN-mediated card activation.”

The inclusion of specifications for an optional iris biometric record is intended to afford an alternative to fingerprint based authentication and chain-of-trust maintenance. This includes:

  • Standardized iris image specification for the PIV Card.
  • Standardized iris image specification for off-card use of iris images.
  • Specifications for the iris camera.
  • Specifications for the semantic properties of iris images.
  • An iris image capture interface.
  • An iris recognition interface.

The draft also includes a provisional specification for the use of swipe fingerprint sensors with on-card comparison. Swipe sensors record an image of a print as the finger is moved over the sensor, rather than recording it from a stationary position. These provisional specifications are being included for public comment and may be withdrawn in the next version of the draft.

“Unlike much of the other content, NIST has little empirical data on which to safely include swipe matching into PIV,” the document says. “Swipe is attractive on grounds of cost, and possibly on grounds of spoof resistance.” NIST is soliciting input on swipe accuracy and viability, interoperability with optically-derived templates, operating with standardized minutia templates, operational experiences, how minutia standards might be revised, and whether these provisions should be allowed only after a certain date.

Also included are specifications for minimum accuracy in terms of false match rates for off-card and on-card authentication with fingerprint minutiae and for off-card authentications with iris images.

Among the significant changes proposed in the revision of FIPS 201, released last month, are a biometrically authenticated chain of trust to allow reissuing of lost cards and the optional inclusion of new industry standards that could make the cards more adaptable as technology changes.

The maximum life of the card also would be extended from five to six years, to synchronize the card life cycle with the certificates and biometric data the cards use. The original standard was released in 2005 and was due for a routine review in 2010. NIST determined at that time that a revision was needed.

Comments on SP 800-76-2 can be e-mailed to patrick.grother@nist.gov, or sent to Patrick Grother, Information Access Division, Information Technology Laboratory, ATTN: Comments on Revision Draft SP 800-76-2, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 7740, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-7740.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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