National Research Council report on biometrics raises hard questions, ire

Ellen Messmer writes in the US publication Network World:

A lengthy review of the general state of biometrics raises questions about the reliability, accuracy and scalability of these technologies, as well as whether they have the public’s trust.

The 183-page report, “Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities,” is the culmination of a multi-year study done by a committee under the [US] National Research Council (NRC), which receives federal funding and issues reports to advise government on scientific and technical matters. This NRC biometrics committee, chaired by HP Labs distinguished scientist Joseph Pato, with its membership drawn from industry, academia and the analyst community, late last week published a withering critique of biometrics that is getting slammed by some in the industry.

“Biometrics recognition has been applied to identification of criminals, patient tracking and medical informatics, and the personalization of social services, among other things,” the NRC report states. “In spite of substantial effort, however, there remain unresolved questions about the effectiveness and management of systems for biometric recognition and societal impact of their use.”

“The report is out of date and misleading at best,” says Michael DePasquale, CEO of BIO-key International. “The fact that it relies on data gathered over five years ago does a disservice to the industry, and to those individuals who have been pushing technological advancements since 2004. Over the last six years, the technology has made significant contributions to not only our national security, but also to protecting access to a wide variety of commercial applications including smartphones, laptops, offices, homes, commercial networks, point-of-sale terminals and medical storage cabinets.”

The NRC report can be downloaded here.