This week in biometrics

The hype surrounding biometrics is prompting some countries to invest in technology where they think it is most needed--protecting borders.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read
The hype surrounding technologies such as facial and iris recognition and radio frequency ID tags is prompting some countries to invest in the technology where they think it is most needed--protecting borders.

Biometrics has been widely touted as the next step in the evolution of identification and authentication systems. But despite the zealous reception that the technology has received from politicians and the general public, issues with system interoperability, privacy and data sharing must be solved before the technology can live up to its acclaim, some industry experts say.

Compatibility issues and questions of privacy are still hampering the efforts of countries looking to establish global biometrics standards, one expert said. "Where is my personal data being held? Who is it being shared with? How is it backed up and archived? Is it deleted when it becomes obsolete?" he asked.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has announced that all U.S. passports will be implanted with remotely readable computer chips starting in October 2006. Sweeping new State Department regulations require that passports issued after that time will have tiny radio frequency ID (RFID) chips that can transmit personal information including the name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth and digitized photograph of the passport holder. Eventually, the government contemplates adding additional digitized data such as "fingerprints or iris scans."

Over the last year, opposition to the idea of implanting RFID chips in passports has grown amid worries that identity thieves could snatch personal information out of the air simply by aiming a high-powered antenna at a person or a vehicle carrying a passport.

To address the myriad complexities surrounding ID theft, CNET News.com has launched a comprehensive page that includes a resource center, roundtable discussions, victims' stories and frequently asked questions. It also will include news and updates until federal legislation is enacted. It is designed to be bookmarked as a one-stop center to which readers can repeatedly turn to get the latest information, participate in various forums and help shape the debate.