State, NIST disagree on biometrics

A digital photograph and contactless chip for electronic passport implementation would confirm the identity of the person carrying the document, a top State Department official said late last month in testimony before Congress.

Facial imaging is the first generation of biometric identifiers and is consistent with International Civil Aviation Organization standards, said Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary of State for consular affairs. Moss made his statement during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, however, has said fingerprints are more reliable.

'Fingerprints are more accurate than face recognition in operational environments,' said Martin Herman, chief of NIST's information access division. NIST, however, has not tested facial recognition reliability in three years, he said.

In 2002, NIST found that the accuracy of two-fingerprint matching was 99.6 percent; facial recognition was 90 percent. 'We believe there have been improvements in facial recognition since then,' he added.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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