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FBI exec appears before House Committee, discusses work with fingerprint and other biometrics


Steven Martinez, the Executive Assistant Director, Science and Technology Branch of the FBI recently made a statement before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations to speak about the FBI’s use of fingerprints as a secure biometric technology identifier, relative to the issuance of government credentials.

“The FBI uses fingerprints in two primary ways: background checks and criminal investigations,” Martinez began.

“When fingerprints are related to an arrest, the criminal history summary includes name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of the arrest, the arrest charge, and the disposition of the arrest. All arrest data included in a criminal history summary is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports, and other information submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.

Fingerprints recovered from evidence found at crimes scenes are processed through our Latent Print Operations Unit (LPOU) located at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. These prints, typically referred to as latent prints, are examined and used to assist in criminal investigations.”

According to Martinez’s statement, more than 18,000 local, state, tribal, federal and international partners electronically submit requests to the FBI’s IAFIS, though the FBI’s NGI program is working to modernize and advance the agency’s identification capabilities.

Reported previously, increment three of the FBI’s NGI program was recently deployed by a Lockheed Martin-led team, and the group says this new increment provides significant improvement in latent fingerprint search accuracy as well as a new nationwide palm print identification system to help solve cold cases.

With the introduction of the NGI in 2011, the agency was afforded faster algorithm processing, increased ‘lights out’ processing for sequence check and image comparison, improved search accuracy, a new validation algorithm for image quality and sequence checks as well as improved flat print searching. In addition, the NGI has also decreased the transaction rejection rate due to a better ability to process poor image quality probe and exemplar submissions.

“The final increments of NGI will include an effort to provide identification based on iris images, scheduled for pilot deployment in 2013, and a focus on technology refreshment,” Martinez continued.

Since automation through IAFIS, the FBI has processed more than 456 million fingerprint submissions. The current reject rate on these submission is 3.77 percent (note: average error rate over the last 13 months), with most of these (three-fourths) due to poor image quality.”

In his statement, Martinez also discussed biometric modalities that the FBI is currently evaluating. This includes: facial recognition, palm print identification, iris recognition, speaker recognition and voice biometrics, as well as DNA.

Martinez’s full testimony is available on the FBI’s website.  

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