The Department of Homeland Security has contracted the University of Texas at Austin to explore how biometric technology can improve everyday life for citizens. The research will be undertaken by the university’s Center for Identity.
In a notice announcing the contract, the DHS, via its Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, explained that it will see UT Austin “observe the daily activities of citizens in order to identify opportunities where biometrics can improve their quality of life around protection, security, social media, and commerce.” The researchers are also asked to assess “the requirements for these daily activities to drive the selection of biometric technologies.”
The DHS has been increasingly interested in the utility of biometric identification technology for security, but it isn’t immediately clear why the homeland security agency would actively seek to study how the technology could “improve daily life”. Clues may lie in the DHS’s Office of Biometric Identity Management’s recent Request for Information from vendors who can help it to improve its communications strategy, and in its recent discussions with privacy advocates regarding the CBP’s expanding Biometric Exit program. As its biometric activities begin to impact more citizens, the agency may be looking to build its case for biometric technology more broadly; and given the growing proliferation of biometric authentication in the consumer sector, UT Austin’s researchers will probably be able to refine some compelling arguments about its benefits to citizens.
August 4, 2017 – by Alex Perala