- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

Millions of federal employees and contractors will soon receive high-tech identification badges with computer chips that hold such information as digital fingerprints as part of the Bush administration’s effort to tighten security at federal facilities.

Under a directive issued by President Bush, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology developed a set of requirements for federal identification cards that agencies have to meet by this fall. Officials will begin issuing the badges later this year.

The new cards will include security features to keep terrorists or others from accessing federal buildings or computer systems. They are also designed to allow federal employees to move easily among agencies.

“It is a presidential priority to protect people who work for the government and the facilities they work in, both of which are unfortunately potential targets in a post-September 11 environment,” said Phillip Bond, undersecretary for technology at the Commerce Department.

Some federal worker unions say the new cards and the personal data they store might compromise employee privacy, and some privacy advocates say not enough thought was given to privacy and security measures because the development of the standards, in a period of just six months, was rushed.

The cards, which often look like credit cards, come with a chip that functions as a small computer, storing information that can be accessed and manipulated with reading equipment. Some cards can transfer information from the card to a reader through an embedded antenna.

Credit card companies are testing systems that would allow people to pay by simply waving their card in front of a reader. By the end of this year, all U.S. passports are expected to have a chip holding personal information and a photo of the holder’s face.

The new cards will look like a normal ID badge, with a photo, the holder’s name and agency, a serial number and expiration date. Each must have a chip capable of storing at least two digital fingerprints and a personal identification number.

Depending on the security level, a user can either show the card to a guard or use the wireless feature to swipe it across a reader to get into a building. Computer systems could be accessed by sliding the card into a desktop unit. In some cases, fingerprints would be checked to see if they match those stored on the card.

The new IDs won’t all look the same and each agency has the freedom to add functions. Several agencies already use the cards, including the Defense Department, which has issued 3.1 million Common Access Cards that workers used for everything from accessing computers to paying for meals in cafeterias.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide