Fed IDs may get faster, safer

By the end of December, the federal government is expected to pick a new storage standard for fingerprint data on its new Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards, a Homeland Security Department official said today.

The cards are expected to use a mathematical template of fingerprint images of cardholders’ two index fingers, instead of compressed images of the prints themselves, said Kevin Crouch, portfolio manager for Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) implementation at DHS’ Joint Office of Interoperable Communications.

PIV cards are required under HSPD-12, a mandate from President Bush that all federal employees and contractors have secure credentials for physical and logical access to federal facilities.

HSPD-12 requires an interoperable format for storing biometric data on PIV cards. Federal agencies are required to start issuing the cards Oct. 27, 2006, and must replace 3.5 million cards by 2009.

The switch breaks the nearly year-long deadlock over whether the PIV cards should use images or templates, said Walter Hamilton, chairman of the International Biometric Industry Association and vice president and general manager of biometric solutions at Saflink.

The decision marks a victory for the biometrics industry, which supports using templates. Templates require less data and processing time and protect the privacy of data better than images do, Hamilton said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology supported using compressed images because the template technology is less tested than image technology.

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