A just-released Defense Science Board report on biometrics says the Defense Department needs to get focused and organized, like, yesterday, on identity management. That's the bit you do once you've collected all the data. In fact, the DSB went so far as to say that the phrase identity management ought to replace biometrics altogether because it's must more representative of what these cool technologies can do for the military.
DOD uses biometrics both for identity authentication such as in smart cards and building access, and in crime scene investigations after roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fingerprints are lifted from bomb fragments loaded into the Pentagon's Automated Biometric Information System, or ABIS, for cross-matching with detainees, fingerprints taken from sailors on commercial vessels during interdiction missions, and any locals applying for jobs.
The DSB says management of biometrics applications has been widely distributed across the Defense Department and is sorely in need of some larger, oversight or construct. Does DOD need a biometrics czar?
The board says biometrics suffers from the same ailment that hinders lots of new technologies: supporters who make a lot of unsupported claims about what the technology can do and detractors who cry foul about privacy concerns and the mysteries of science.
"Identity management, the output of the application of biometrics, and the real issue here, is vitally important to the success of many missions of the department, and increasingly so," the report says. "This growing importance, however, has not been reflected in the attention the department has paid to topic."
Looks like there's lots of interesting reading in this report. Something to do this weekend. I'm not afraid to acknowledge here that I heart biometrics. At least I love writing about them. I don't particularly want anyone scanning my irises. And when my gym instituted a 10-point fingerprint recognition system, I balked at first. Now, it really is faster to get into the gym.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth