Biometrics: Government Fingerprint of Approval

It is this generation's voice recognition software. It's always about to become ubiquitous. Every year is "The Year of Biometrics." But, for reasons sensible and not, it never quite achieves entrenchment. Instead, it fills niches. (For a comprehensive analysis, see "Biometrics Slouches Toward the Mainstream," Page 63.)

No shame in that. Executives using retinal scans to access e-mail seems like vain overkill anyway. But using it to access, say, NASA research facilities could be beneficial. No industry has to move so much confidential information or provide access to so many sensitive locations as the government, so biometrics fit naturally in that niche and provide better authentication than just passwords or key cards. The new focus on homeland security has only increased the interest in using biometrics in the government. Here's a sample.

AgencyBiometrics in use or in trialNotes
Federal Aviation AdministrationFace scan, voice print, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris scanPart of a larger effort known as Aviation Security Biometrics Working Group
Immigration and Naturalization ServiceHand geometry, voice printBorder crossings are adding biometrics
State of ConnecticutFingerprintUsed to prevent welfare fraud
Office of Legislative Counsel, House of RepresentativesIris scanOne official says using biometrics to secure sensitive documents will get the office out of "password jail"
National Institute of Standards and TechnologyFace scanLeading an effort on behalf of 14 government agencies to vet facial recognition systems

Source: Federal Computer Week and government reports

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