FBI, Department of Homeland Security to team up to collect iris biometrics

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are teaming up to identify criminals and high-risk travelers using iris recognition technology.

Last year, DHS began collecting iris and facial records from suspected illegal immigrants or immigrants arrested at border patrol stations and now the department has teamed up with the FBI and will exchange the digital eye scans of booked offenders.

Brian Edgell, unit chief for the FBI’s enhanced biometric system tells Nextgov that the bureau is working closely with border control on iris matching projects.

As reported previously in BiometricUpdate.com, the FBI recently made facial recognition tools available to local law enforcement agencies across the United States as a part of a limited pilot project, with the intention of implementing the system nationwide in 2014.

According to the report in Nextgov, DHS and FBI biometric databases must be compatible. Edgell also believes iris recognition is a logical extension of existing identification programs. The FBI’s traditional fingerprinting system is transforming into a $1 billion multi-modal repository, called the Next Generation Identification program.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification program will be designed to advance the integration strategies and indexing of additional biometric data that will provide the framework for a future multi-modal system.

DHS collects approximately 300,000 fingerprints per day and stores them in DHS biometric databases, which are also interconnected with those of the state and local law enforcement. Through a program called Secure Communities, immigration authorities cross-check foreigners’ prints against prints from booked individuals.

FBI officials say that Secure Communities is managed by DHS and the only irises saved in the FBI’s system come from those who have had run-ins with the law.

“Secure Communities is a Homeland Security Department program,” Edgell said in an interview with Nextgov. “I think it is a way we can begin to build upon what we’re doing.”

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