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Biometrics council wants to fill standards gap

Backed by IBM and Department of Homeland Security, the International Biometric Advisory Council wants to tackle ambiguity.

Biometrics experts from industry and government have banded together to form an organization to tackle the serious standards issues that could delay widespread deployment of the technology.

Announced on Tuesday, the International Biometric Advisory Council (IBAC) is made up of representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, IBM and international security organizations.

The main objective of IBAC is to remove ambiguity around the development and use of biometrics. The group will focus much of its attention on sister organization the European Biometrics Forum. The EBF is supported by the European Commission and aims to establish the European Union as a "world leader in biometrics."

"International cooperation on issues such as standards and interoperability is essential for the future of biometrics. The IBAC will facilitate the cooperation and will also give the European biometrics community a global stage," said IBAC member Bernard Didier of security company Sagem Defense Securite.

The formation of the IBAC follows calls from government and the private sector for a global standards body to oversee biometrics development.

As reported earlier this month, Robert Mocny, deputy director of the US-Visit program, has backed calls for an international body to monitor biometric usage. "Currently there is no body, but you'll see shortly there will be one. The EU is going to start using biometric passports, and other countries will follow. That needs coordinating," he said.

Cal Slemp, vice president and global leader of security and privacy services at IBM Global Services, said wider international cooperation is needed to establish a common language and standards for biometrics.

"There are organizations that work together on this issue, and issues like that across borders all the time, and it can be as grandiose as to say the U.N. has a process in place to share information like that and create working groups to try and to create standards or expectations and across multiple jurisdictions," Slemp said. "I just don't know what the name would be."

Current efforts are piecemeal, and much more can be done to exploit the potential of the federated environment, Slemp said.

The IBAC will meet twice a year and have a maximum membership of 12 individuals, but more members will be invited to join in the coming months.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London. ZDNet Asia's Vivian Yeo contributed to this report.