Decision on smart-card biometrics due soon

The administration is expected to make a decision as early as next week about the standard type of biometric identification for governmentwide smart cards under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

Curt Barker, co-chairman of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Personal Identity Verification project, said his office will have draft specifications out for public review within about a month of when the administration chooses between image and minutiae as the way to capture two fingerprints on the smart card.

NIST issued the initial draft Special Publication 800-76 last January, and specified agencies should store fingerprints on cards using digital image rather than minutiae. NIST, however, received enough comments from industry and agencies that required the administration to rethink its position, Barker said yesterday at a forum on HSPD-12 in Washington sponsored by the CIO Council's IT Workforce Committee.

If the administration affirms NIST's original decision to use image, the draft specification could be out sooner, Barker said.

The debate raged over the last 10 months because some believe minutiae is too new and there are no open standards, while image is more entrenched.

Barker said there are benefits of both standards.

He said the benefits of images include accuracy and interoperability, while minutiae is less expensive with faster processing times.

After NIST receives comments, Barker said the agency plans to get the final version of 800-76 out about a month later.

'We need to get biometrics conformance testing out quickly,' he said. 'We have to figure out who will do it'government or commercial laboratories.'

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