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Biometric ID system only 50-50 effective

UPI | May 23, 2005

A $10 billion system for using fingerprints to check the identity of foreign visitors has only about a 50-50 chance of catching suspected terrorists.

An article in the prestigious "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" says that the system, known as US-VISIT, will catch only just over half of terrorist suspects, even if their prints are on file.

The article used statistical modeling to try and predict how often the inkless finger scans collected from visitors to the United States can be successfully matched with the type of poor quality images that are typically the only records of the fingerprints of terrorist suspects.

"The strong dependence of biometric identification performance on image quality level leaves the ... program vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists," says the journal, which is one of the world's most often-cited multidisciplinary scientific periodicals.

Homeland security officials defend the biometric identification system, saying that the journal's analysis is purely theoretical, and examines its performance under the worst possible circumstances.

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