GAO: Agencies should standardize biometric data

The types of biometric data collected by the Defense Department and other agencies should be standardized to make sharing the data easier, the Government Accountability Office has said in a report.

Agencies collect biometric information — such as fingerprints and iris images — as a way to identify people. Those agencies,  such as the Homeland Security and State departments, need to access and share that data, GAO said in a report issued Oct. 15.

Having a standard set of data would help ensure consistent identification and confirmation of a person’s identity, the report stated. Standard data also allows forces to compare data across multiple databases in different military commands.

The report also said a standard set of data also would allow for comparison of new biometric data collected in the field with existing biometric data.

DOD has guidance on the biometric data collected from people who are detained or allowed access to U.S. bases in Iraq, the report said. There is no guidance on data collected during field activities where U.S. forces encounter hostile or questionable individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq, the document also stated.

Commanders are allowed to determine the type of data to collect, such as fingerprints or iris images, during their operations. GAO’s analysis showed that allowing for this flexibility results in the collection of different data that are not necessarily comparable with each other.

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About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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