Homeland Security to deploy iris and facial recognition services to Border Patrol

January 29, 2015 - 

The Department of Homeland Security has announced it will begin deploying iris and facial recognition services to the U.S. Border Patrol as part of a pilot program this summer, according to a report by Defense One.

Using these services, DHS will have the capability of sharing images with the FBI’s biometric database, said DHS officials.

The new services are part of the department’s complete revamp of its “IDENT” biometric system, which currently stores more than 170 million foreigner fingerprints and facial images, along with 600,000 iris templates.

Last November, the agency released two sets of system specifications in preparation for the new project.

The Border Patrol stations will perform the actual collections of iris and face images from individuals processed through Customs and Border Patrol stations, said Ken Fritzsche, director of the identity technology division at the DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management.

He also added that the stations have been collecting iris images and storing the data with DHS to provide matching capability to CBP as part of a limited pilot program.

DHS said the expansion of IDENT’s infrastructure combined with the new capabilities will likely enable it to match more than 10 million iris and face images.

Currently, the system stores images of every fingerprinted individual, including those individuals entering the country and visa applicants.

Many of the images are too low resolution to meet the quality requirements for facial matching, which is why DHS is researching new methods of using this data “with strong privacy and security protections in place to improve the accuracy of biometric identification/verification,” as well as reduce any unneeded secondary screening, said DHS officials.

“We’re trying to get enough knowledge right now on how to do iris [scans] to be able to actually process the images we’ve been collecting for a couple of years now,” said Fritzsche. “That’s what we’re doing with this pilot.”

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Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.