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Overview of Workshop Discussions

This report summarizes a workshop on the technology, policy, and cultural dimensions of biometrics systems held March 15 and 16, 2005, in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the Whither Biometrics Committee. Several items should be kept in mind when reading this report:

  • The workshop focused on a subset of areas that the committee believed would provide a basis for its work during the remaining study period. There are areas of direct relevance to the study that are missing from the workshop agenda, either because of time constraints or because the panelists chose to address different areas. (For example, some application domains were not discussed explicitly, although it should be clear from the context when an issue applies to biometric systems broadly and when it applies to a particular system.) The committee plans to gather input on those domains in subsequent activities; feedback and additional input from readers of this report are welcome.

  • Given the diverse backgrounds of participants at the workshop, a variety of technologies and measures were discussed, ranging from fingerprints to facial recognition to DNA. While the applicability of high-level principles and systems considerations will change depending on a number of factors (for example, latent fingerprints can be captured long after a person has left the area, whereas a voiceprint disappears without a recording device available to capture it in real time), this report does not attempt to tease apart those considerations in detail. The committee’s final report is expected to be a much more elaborated synthesis and analysis of what can be generalized about biometrics and will incorporate aspects of the workshop’s discussions as well as additional input received over the course of the study.

  • The committee has chosen not to extend the discussions in this first-phase report, instead reserving that task for the final report. Consequently, this report does not provide a free-standing overview of the current state of biometrics technology, biometrics research, current application domains (some of which were not touched on at this workshop), or anything other than the views expressed at this particular workshop. For readability and to promote understanding, background material on some of the topics raised has been interspersed with the record of presentations and discussions.



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Summary of a Workshop on the: Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems 1 Overview of Workshop Discussions This report summarizes a workshop on the technology, policy, and cultural dimensions of biometrics systems held March 15 and 16, 2005, in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the Whither Biometrics Committee. Several items should be kept in mind when reading this report: The workshop focused on a subset of areas that the committee believed would provide a basis for its work during the remaining study period. There are areas of direct relevance to the study that are missing from the workshop agenda, either because of time constraints or because the panelists chose to address different areas. (For example, some application domains were not discussed explicitly, although it should be clear from the context when an issue applies to biometric systems broadly and when it applies to a particular system.) The committee plans to gather input on those domains in subsequent activities; feedback and additional input from readers of this report are welcome. Given the diverse backgrounds of participants at the workshop, a variety of technologies and measures were discussed, ranging from fingerprints to facial recognition to DNA. While the applicability of high-level principles and systems considerations will change depending on a number of factors (for example, latent fingerprints can be captured long after a person has left the area, whereas a voiceprint disappears without a recording device available to capture it in real time), this report does not attempt to tease apart those considerations in detail. The committee’s final report is expected to be a much more elaborated synthesis and analysis of what can be generalized about biometrics and will incorporate aspects of the workshop’s discussions as well as additional input received over the course of the study. The committee has chosen not to extend the discussions in this first-phase report, instead reserving that task for the final report. Consequently, this report does not provide a free-standing overview of the current state of biometrics technology, biometrics research, current application domains (some of which were not touched on at this workshop), or anything other than the views expressed at this particular workshop. For readability and to promote understanding, background material on some of the topics raised has been interspersed with the record of presentations and discussions.

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Summary of a Workshop on the: Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems Listed below are some of the main themes arising from each panel session. The themes are not conclusions or findings of the committee; they are ideas extracted from each panel that seem to be the main thrusts of each discussion. Each panel session discussion is more fully elaborated in Chapter 2. SESSION 1: SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL CHALLENGES FOR BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGIES AND SYSTEMS, INCLUDING SYSTEM INTEGRATION, ARCHITECTURE, AND CONTEXTS OF USE In Session 1, participants from industry, government, and academic research centers discussed the state of the art of biometric systems, the current bottlenecks, and areas where performance could be improved. Among the different types of biometrics, three were highlighted by the panelists—fingerprint, iris, and face—as being those accepted by the International Civil Aviation Organization for use in border-crossing documents. All panelists agreed that biometric systems cannot be made perfect—that is, the focus should be on how to evaluate and reduce, rather than eliminate, error rates. The challenges relevant in varying degrees to all biometric systems were grouped into three categories by the panelists, with primary emphasis during this discussion given to the first category of challenges. Improving the accuracy of biometric technologies and related performance evaluations through research on sensor resolution and ergonomics, algorithms and techniques for biometric fusion, characteristics of biometric feature spaces, and scientific methods to better quantify biometric systems’ performance under realistic conditions. Systematically and thoughtfully integrating biometric systems with other security systems. Promoting interoperability of biometric systems, especially internationally, through a framework of standards, test methodologies, and independent evaluations. SESSION 2: MEASUREMENT, STATISTICS, TESTING, AND EVALUATION Session 2 explored issues surrounding the measurement, statistics, testing, and evaluation of biometrics and biometric systems. It should be noted that statistical analysis in the context of biometric systems is and can be employed for a range of purposes, including assessments of the underlying technology, analysis of user behavior, data mining, and so on. Indeed, such issues were discussed throughout the workshop in several different contexts. Questions raised for this panel included these: Do biometric systems work? What is meant by “work” in the context of a biometrics system? What is being measured, tested, and evaluated, and how can confidence in the experiments be created? The panelists presented a range of perspectives on these issues, from broad explorations of the nature of experimentation and representative populations to discussions of specific evaluation regimens and real-world deployment at a major international airport. Several overarching themes arose: Evaluating biometric systems serves three purposes: to guide and support research and development, to assess the readiness of a system for deployment, and to monitor performance of a system in the field. As in many other domains, appropriate experimental design and solid statistical underpinnings are needed to produce effective testing and evaluation regimes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, given the many types of systems that are deployed.

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Summary of a Workshop on the: Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems Data and data selection choices, which include understanding the reference and expected user populations, can have a large impact on the accuracy and effectiveness of testing and evaluation. SESSION 3: LEGISLATIVE, POLICY, HUMAN, AND CULTURAL FACTORS In Session 3 panelists were asked to address the legal, policy, social, and cultural aspects of biometric systems, as well as the broad implications for society of the collection and use of biometric data in different contexts at both national and international levels. Major threads of presentations and discussions at this session included the following: Three different modes of identification evidence—mitochondrial DNA, facial recognition, and latent fingerprints—were discussed in relation to “general acceptance” and “scientific validity”—two legal standards for the admissibility of evidence in a court of law. Lessons for biometric system security were drawn from the current uses of Social Security numbers (SSNs) and the growing incidence of identity fraud. The proposition of a new law restricting the sale and disclosure of biometric identifiers was actively debated. The meaning of “privacy” in relation to the use of biometrics technologies was discussed in terms of legal principles and some preliminary public opinion survey research. Issues related to the collection and use of data generated by biometric technologies and associated fair information practices were discussed in relation to an earlier study on the use of radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs) and access cards in the private sector. The international legal and cultural dimensions of privacy were discussed, including their implications for the use of biometrics. SESSION 4: SCENARIOS AND APPLICATIONS Session 4 participants were asked to discuss the impact of different application contexts on the performance of biometric systems and to describe general characteristics of successfully deployed biometric systems. Other topics covered in this session included approaches to the fusion of multiple biometrics and methods for integrating biometrics into particular system contexts and environments. Among the themes that emerged during the discussion were the following: The challenges identified for biometric identity management applications will vary depending on the application requirements, system scale, and the security environment. Nontechnical factors such as human factors and user training can have significant impacts on biometric system performance. Standards and interoperability are important for better system performance and the global use of biometric systems. SESSION 5: TECHNICAL AND POLICY ASPECTS OF INFORMATION SHARING AND COOPERATION Session 5 panelists were asked to discuss a variety of issues related to biometric data sharing, including technical challenges as they relate to synchronicity and connectivity of data on the one hand

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Summary of a Workshop on the: Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems and to security and privacy of data on the other hand; policy considerations for sharing biometric data between agencies; and practical considerations of standards development and cross-jurisdictional cooperation. The following are some of the topics covered in this session: Newly established and long-standing biometric data sharing applications at the state, national, and international level were described in the contexts of military defense, law enforcement, and immigration. Systems discussed included the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), the Criminal Alien Identification System (CAIS), the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), and the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. Technical and policy challenges related to information sharing among large-scale biometric systems were addressed, including data integrity and procedural analysis, consolidation of biometric information, and integration of databases. Broader policy challenges of biometric information sharing also were discussed, including (1) the importance of evaluating biometric systems based on their context, purpose, and the policies they serve; (2) establishing criteria to determine the usefulness of data for decision making; and (3) instituting careful procedures for maintaining and sharing digital records.