U.S. looks abroad for new biometric data sources

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The Homeland Security Department increasingly is able to tap into other countries' fingerprint databases for purposes of identifying individuals, said Robert Mocny, director of US-VISIT.

"What we found was the phenomenon of US-VISIT back in 2004 that was somewhat pilloried by a lot of other countries is now being replicated across the globe," Mocny said Nov. 29, referring to the system that collects fingerprint scans of foreign travelers entering the United States. He spoke at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on the future of homeland security.

The United States and four other countries--the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand--share fingerprint information through a system called the Secure Real Time Platform, Mocny said. DHS increasingly looks abroad for fingerprint information as domestically it's managed to link to FBI fingerprint database. In four locations, "soon to be all locations," Customs and Border Protection officials can access FBI data in real time.

DHS is also able to access Defense Department fingerprint data, Mocny added, but interoperability has been a challenge, so it continues to receive DoD information manually.

Mocny also noted that in McAllen, Texas, US-VISIT began a pilot to collect iris and facial scans of incoming visitors.

Biometrics has "just completely changed the way we do business," Mocny said.

For more:
- go to the CSIS event webpage (archived audio and some video available)

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