EU pushes for interoperable biometrics

To aid in reaching consensus on government policies for biometrics, the European Union has launched a new public information portal for information exchange and community-building activities.

The public European Biometrics portal, a free online Web site, is intended to help coordinate approaches on how to resolve issues related to privacy and security in deploying biometric systems.

Biometric systems use images or templates of genetic data such as fingerprints, irises, faces or veins to enroll or authenticate someone's identity.

"There has been progress so far on the technological, application, market and legislation fronts, but [it is] not enough and too fragmented for the large-scale deployment of biometrics systems," states a fact sheet posted by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.

Key issues of security, privacy, interoperability of systems and applications, performance, scalability, and data control remain to be addressed, the commission stated.

In September 2003 the commission adopted regulations for uniform biometric formats for visas and for residence permits for third-country nationals. In February 2004, the commission adopted a proposal on standards, including biometrics, for passports for EU citizens aimed at bringing the standards in line with the Thessaloniki European Council.

The United Kingdom plans to use biometrics in national ID cards and passports.

The commission hopes the new portal will serve as a catalyst for interoperable biometrics. "It is high time now to support effective deployment of the technology by creating awareness and understanding of its potential, as well as the limitations and to coordinate the pockets of expertise and best practice."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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