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NIST Issues Final Federal Biometric Specs

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2006

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Contact: Janice Kosko

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) yesterday issued the final publication describing how biometrics should be stored on Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards. These cards will be required for all federal employees and contractors beginning in October 2006.

NIST Special Publication 800-76, Biometric Data Specification for Personal Identity Verification, contains specifications for acquiring, formatting, and storing fingerprint images and templates; for collecting and formatting facial images; and specifications for biometric devices used to collect and read fingerprint images. The publication specifies that two fingerprints be stored on the card as “minutia templates,” mathematical representations of fingerprint images.

In August 2004, the President issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 calling for a mandatory, government-wide personal identification card that all federal government departments and agencies will issue to their employees and contractors requiring access to federal facilities and systems.

Federal Information Processing Standard 201, Personal Identity Verification for Federal Employees and Contractors, approved by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Feb. 25, 2005, specifies the technical and operational requirements for the PIV system and cards. NIST Special Publication 800-76 is a companion document to FIPS 201 describing how the standard will be implemented.

For a copy of SP 800-76 and more information on PIV, see http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/piv/.