FBI building system that blows away fingerprinting


TAMPA – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is expanding beyond its traditional fingerprint-focused collection practices to develop a new biometrics system that will include DNA records, 3-D facial imaging, palm prints and voice scans, blended to create what's known as "multi-modal biometrics."

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"The FBI today is announcing a rapid DNA initiative," said Louis Grever, executive assistant director of the FBI's science and technology branch, during his keynote presentation at the Biometric Consortium Conference in Tampa.

The FBI plans to begin migrating from its IAFIS database, established in the mid-1990s to hold its vast fingerprint data, to a next-generation system that's expected to be in prototype early next year. This multi-modal NGI biometrics database system will hold DNA records and more.

Grever said that fingerprints and DNA appear to be the most mature and searchable biometrics possibilities, but the FBI is working to include iris-scan records among newer biometrics technologies to identify criminals and terrorists. The plan is to share this data with authorized U.S. and international investigative partners, as the agency does today.

The FBI's current IAFIS database remains a workhouse; it processes about 200,000 daily transactions from its 370 million 10-fingerprint records, and it just crossed the 250 million transaction mark.

The next-generation FBI database system is under design by MorphoTrak and is expected to include DNA, iris scans, advanced 3-D facial imaging and voice scans among its multi-modal biometrics. Lower turnaround times for delivering information over wide-area networks are planned. The goal is to drop from a roughly two-hour response time for IAFIS urgent requests to less than 10 minutes.

But FBI officials acknowledged there's still a lot of research and development that needs to be done to reach its NGI goals. One goal is to develop a rapid DNA analysis method that would provide DNA analysis in less than an hour, as opposed to several hours or even days. The FBI is cosponsoring research with the Department of Defense, which has a similar goal.

Kevin Reid, section chief for the biometrics service section at the FBI, said the FBI also wants to establish a service-oriented architecture for NGI, but it's not clear when this would be in place to provide services related to biometrics information-sharing.

The FBI is already moving into new areas, including setting up a palm-print repository and searchable databases for scars, marks and tattoos that it will be collecting.

The FBI, under the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, is now allowed to collect reference-sample DNA material for biometrics analysis purposes at the time of booking, Grever said. "DNA has become a powerful and timely tool," said Grever, adding there are no "privacy or civil liberties issues beyond those associated with fingerprints."

This story, "FBI building system that blows away fingerprinting" was originally published by Network World.

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