Carnegie Mellon has announced a new partnership with the National Biometric Security Project to develop technologies to identify and track terrorists and criminals. The National Biometric Security Project is a nonprofit testing research and analysis organization based in Washington, D.C., that is trying to help government and the private sector beef up their biometric security. The Project's laboratory is in West Virginia. One item on the list that is particularly interesting is biometric encryption. Instead of just scanning a person's iris or taking their fingerprint and then storing that information in a database. The scan and/or fingerprint could be encrypted with some other identifer such as a PIN number or account number. Encryption adds a layer of redundancy to biometrics that reduces the rate of false matches.
According to Carnegie Mellon's CyLab, the appearance of the face changes with expression and fingerprints can vary depending on the level of pressure applied. The team will also develop advanced technologies for fingerprinting, iris scanning and hand geometry. Biometrics are in huge demand in Iraq and Afghanistan where U.S. commanders and police need to be able to screen and track the locals they employ as translators or contractors as well as those being arrested. In the March issue of DTI, I wrote about a Navy program to test backpackable biometrics kits with interdiction teams who board foreign commercial vessels. The idea would be to cross-reference fingerprints collected against terrorist watch lists and records from IED bombings.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth