A worldwide web for personal ID

A global internet standards body plans to develop ways to exchange complex personal ID such as DNA, fingerprints or iris scans via the internet.

The US-based Oasis consortium aims to draw up a standard for biometric information based on XML (extensible mark-up language), the protocol that allows data to be shared between different systems via the internet.

Interest in biometric technologies is growing as developers of security systems try to move beyond current ID methods such as identity cards, which can be forged, or PIN numbers, which can be forgotten or stolen.

Biometrics are also increasingly being employed as crime- fighting tools. Facial recognition software is already used by the UK’s National Crime Squad and the number of planned trials of systems at airports has soared since the September 11 attacks.

As use of the data grows so will the demand to share it across agencies, systems and countries. But Oasis said the variety of data standards used by biometric systems would hinder plans to exchange it quickly and easily via the internet.

‘Existing biometric standards use binary encoding formats, which severely limit their use in XML systems and applications,’ said Phillip Griffin, who will chair the Oasis technical committee on the issue.

Oasis said any resulting standard would need to conform to US rules on the security and integrity of biometric data before entering use.

Biometrics is the latest in a lengthy list of applications for which Oasis is attempting to define XML standards. The organisation is working with the United Nations to develop ebXML, a global framework for e-business data exchange.

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