TWIC goes to prototype

Transportation Security Administration officials have entered a new phase of testing the Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC) program at the Port of Long Beach Container Terminal in California.

The first phase was the planning phase, followed by the technical phase, with 4,000 cards issued. Now, the credential program is in the prototype phase, which will eventually include 34 sites in six states. For the next seven months, about 200,000 people will participate in the program. The next phase is implementation.

The identity credential is a tamper-resistant card with biometric information about the holder that transportation facilities can use to identify workers and prevent unauthorized people from accessing secure areas. Currently, many transportation workers carry identification cards for each facility they enter, but officials hope a standard card would eliminate the need for redundant credentials.

Each card contains a 64K contact Integrated circuit chip, a magnetic strip, a 2-D bar code, a unique serial number and a digital photo. Security features include Guilloche patterns, micro text, UV printing and holographic overlays.

The credentials will soon be released at three other sites, including the Philadelphia Maritime Exchange and the Port of Pensacola and Port Canaveral in Florida. In the weeks following, workers from maritime, rail, aviation and ground transportation entities are expected to participate.

TSA and Coast Guard officials are beginning work on a joint rule for maritime workers using TWIC.

Privacy experts are wary. "One of things we're always looking out for is mission creep," said Marsha Hofmann, staff counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "TSA has fallen afoul of that before with [Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II]. This is a program that collects some pretty substantial information. This is something certainly to be aware of and keep an eye on."

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