CATA spins off biometric security group

A Canadian advocacy group has formed to create standards around the kinds of biometric security technology that has gained attention following the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The group, an offshoot of the Canadian Advanced Technology

Alliance (CATAAlliance), was founded by consultant firm Ernst and Young along with biometric vendors Iridian and Bioscrypt. Other members include AiT, Lab7 Networks, Scotiabank, the Ottawa Telephony Group (OTG) and Visionsphere Technologies.

Biometrics, the use of technology to identify individuals based on characteristics like fingerprints or the eye’s iris, made headlines following the Sept. 11 attacks when the Canadian government announced plans to install iris scanners at every airport. Though it holds considerable promise as a security solution, the invasiveness of some solutions has created a barrier to biometric’s mainstream acceptance.

Howard Stanley, who once sold Iridian products through Rycom, is the executive director of the CATA Biometrics Group (CBG). He said the increased exposure of biometric tools in places like airports will go a long way towards driving adoption.

“”There will be more opportunities like that to get your hands on the technology, become more familiar with it, and that kind of referable experience is what people need,”” he said, adding that many companies have had difficulty turning commercial interest into sales. “”All the other vendors were basically complaining about the same thing — it’s just not critical, mass technology, and there’s a real lack of education in the industry.””

Stanley said the CBG’s mandate includes standards but also benchmarking to assist governments in the tendering process. Governments are becoming a considerable vertical market for the products, he added. The state of West Virginia, for example, is incorporating facial recognition in the driver’s licence registration process. The government will use an algorithm that matches a user’s photograph when it is presented for renewal.

Stanley also said there is already one Canadian government department (which he wouldn’t name) that uses the Ankari BioMouse fingerprint recognition device for its users.

Charles Kolodgy, an analyst with IDC’s security software services practice in Framingham, Mass., said establishing common criteria was critical to the market’s evolution.

“”Biometrics can be manipulated, so what I think they need more of is specific standards so that you compare the same things,”” he said. “”You set how accurate you want the reading to be for your biometrics. When they scan a fingerprint, they calculate how many points are correct. You can set how many points have to be correct. That affects the accuracy of the read.””

Stanley said the CBG will also examine many of the privacy issues surrounding the technology — for example, to what extent governments or private enterprises could control records of biological information.

“”We’re not going to wait until somebody wins a contract and gets halfway through the implementation before we start examining the privacy process,”” he said. “”It’s not that people don’t do that already — if you look at the people who buy this stuff, they’re the most paranoid people alive, so it’s not like these guys leave a lot of rocks unturned.””

CATA said the Biometrics Group is its first special advanced technology interest group in the security field and others will follow.

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