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Biometric Standard Expanded To Include DNA, Footprints

An update to the way biometric data is shared by law enforcement includes geo-positioning info about where samples were collected.

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has added the identification of DNA, footmarks, and specific fingerprint information to its biometric data standard, with more enhancements slated for the future.

The organization--which oversees technology standards for the federal government--published a significantly revised biometric standard last month that expands the amount of information that can be used across the world to identify victims of crimes or solve the crimes themselves, it said.

Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD), the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security--as well as international law-enforcement entities--use the standard as a common language for the collection and exchange of biometric data.

The new standard--the Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial, & Other Biometric Information--now includes a way to identify DNA, which is becoming key to the identification of perpetrators of crimes such as murder and rape. The move represents the first international standard for the exchange of DNA biometric data, according to NIST.

[ Torrent of attacks has made it a busy year for cybercrime investigators. Check out the 8 Most Notorious Cybercrime Busts Of 2011. ]

The extended feature set (EFS) for forensic examiner markups also allows for exchange of more specific fingerprint features, marking core locations for the following specific fingerprint identifiers: a double loop whorl, plain whorl, central pocket loop whorl, and tented arch. EFS also includes a standard way to identify footprints and palm prints, according to NIST.

Another enhancement is the ability to specify and share geopositioning coordinates for places where biometric data was collected, as well as information regarding the circumstances surrounding the collection of that data, according to NIST. This may include pictures of items found around a crime scene, as well as audio and video clips.

"The additions to this version of the standard represent a great leap forward," said NIST biometrics standards coordinator Brad Wing in a statement. The standard already includes basic fingerprint matching as well as facial image recognition and iris samples collected from a live person.

Other future additions to the biometric data standard planned include ways to identify voices and traumatic injuries such as bitemarks, as well as the inclusion of dental forensic information.

The feds are increasingly expanding biometrics and technology to enhance how they share, collect, and use this form of identification.

The FBI has deployed new biometrics technology to provide information to law-enforcement agents in real time and is collaborating with the Department of Defense to build a new center devoted to biometrics technology research.

The DOD meanwhile--through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)--is exploring new uses for biometrics of its own. The agency is seeking new ways to identify people biometrically when they sign in to use computers, without interrupting their normal activity flow.

Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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