DHS puts iris scans back into Registered Traveler

Optional iris scans have been restored to the Homeland Security Department's Registered Traveler program, a DHS spokeswoman confirmed today.

Contractors now have the option of collecting and enrolling iris scans in addition to the 10 fingerprints they must collect, said Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.

Iris scans alone will not be sufficient for enrollment. "If they collect irises, they need to collect fingerprints," Kudwa said. However, for verification purposes, either irises or fingerprints may be used, she said. Verification occurs when the traveler appears at the airport and presents a finger or iris to be matched with the enrolled biometrics.

Iris scans were included in Registered Traveler pilot projects at selected airports that were sponsored by the TSA. In December 2005, the agency asked vendors to submit a business model including enrollments of irises and 10 fingerprints.

However, iris scans were briefly dropped from the program earlier this year. In announcing the biometrics for Registered Traveler on Jan. 20, the agency listed only fingerprints, not iris scans. TSA officials said at the time that iris biometrics were still being considered because they offered high-quality data and conformed with several international programs.

In April, the TSA announced it would roll out Registered Traveler at 10 to 20 airports in the second half of this year.

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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