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FBI iris biometrics capability about to reach operation, agency developing fingerprint alteration detection

Also collaborating on whole-hand biometric scanner and automated records requests
FBI iris biometrics capability about to reach operation, agency developing fingerprint alteration detection

The FBI’s long-piloted biometric iris recognition program is set to go into operation as soon as October 1, or possibly later in the fall, reports AFCEA’s Signal Magazine. The agency is also working on a fingerprint alteration detection capability to catch suspects who deliberately damage their fingerprints, and a scanner for capturing full palm prints and all five fingers at once.

During the Federal Identity Virtual Collaboration event this week, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division Biometrics Services Section Chief Scott Rago said the Next-Generation Iris Identification (NGI) service is fast, and 98.4 percent accurate matching a single iris. Matching both irises, identification accuracy rises to 98.6 percent, and the system has other benefits. Iris transactions have low storage requirements, and can be performed without physical contact.

“The capture of a subject’s iris using a near infrared camera can be achieved in seconds and can easily be integrated into existing biometric capture processes,” FBI Deputy Assistant Director Kimberly Del Greco told the audience, according to Signal.

The FBI was given permission to expand its work on iris biometrics last year, as the agency was being criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for not implementing recommendations for ensuring robust privacy protections and accuracy in its facial recognition system.

The FBI also holds more than 43 million mugshots, and Del Greco says the agency received permission to upgrade to a new facial recognition algorithm with 99 percent accuracy after performing testing last November. Rago noted that while the agency is working on a capability to capture iris images from mugshots, it cannot do so yet.

Del Greco says the agency plans to stand up an altered print detection with artificial intelligence and machine learning to help identify people who have cut, burned, or otherwise deliberately changed their fingerprints. Rago notes the FBI is working with the Department of Justice on Joint Automated Booking System (JABS) that will capture palm prints and fingerprints together, which in addition to capturing more information, could prevent biometric data from being mixed up within the system.

The FBI currently stores palm prints in six images in two parts.

“The better capture method is a four-image capture whereby the whole palm is captured with the whole set of fingerprints together,” Rago states. “Although we do not have a scanner large enough to capture the whole hand … that is what we would like to have for a best practice. In this way, there is no doubt that the palm prints belong to the corresponding and attached fingerprints.”

The FBI is also planning a technology upgrade to the system by which people request records the agency holds on them. Automation has cut the process time from 18 weeks to 1, and the FBI is now working with the Postal Service to allow fingerprint scanning at a post office for response within roughly two hours. The capacity is being piloted at 81 post office locations, with 20 more going live this month.

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