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September 2004

HP security expert Joe Pato heads influential biometrics investigation

Biometrics technologies may help combat terrorism, but difficult questions remain


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HP Labs Distinguished Technologist Joe Pato will chair an advisory committee to the U.S. government to provide a comprehensive assessment of biometrics and the role of government in its development.

The committee, which begins its two-year study in October, will examine the technical and policy challenges associated with the development, evaluation and use of biometric technologies and systems. In addition, panel members will investigate the research challenges and identify a multi- and inter-disciplinary research agenda to begin to meet them.

Biometrics – the automatic identification or identity verification of human individuals on the basis of behavioral and physiological characteristics – is receiving attention from many quarters. Promoted as a means to combat terrorism, to increase security, to boost efficiency and to lessen inconvenience, biometrics technologies are being deployed in corporations, government agencies and other contexts. Questions persist, however, about biometrics' effectiveness as a security measure, its usability and manageability and its appropriateness in widely varying contexts.

Pato, Lab Scientist for HP’s Trusted Systems Lab, has been involved in security research and development since 1986, with a focus on security as a tool to enable collaboration. He has spent much of his career exploring authentication, identification and privacy issues and considering how to strengthen critical infrastructure protection.

The biometrics committee was convened by the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), an independent advisor to the U.S. government on technical and public policy issues relating to computing and communications. The new study builds on the board’s earlier work on authentication and privacy, in which Pato was a key participant.

In addition to Pato, the 15-member committee includes distinguished representatives from industry and academia. Participants include a former Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology, a former CIO at Fidelity Investments, and leading researchers in fields of biometrics, statistics, ethnography, law and science, and information security.

The work is sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with sponsorship from the Department of Homeland Security pending.

Pato, who manages a team of HP Labs researchers in Princeton, NJ, is a founder and board member of the IT Sector Information Sharing and Analysis Center for sharing information about network vulnerabilities and effective solutions. For the past three years he has been an instructor for the course, Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


by Jamie Beckett

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Joe Pato

Joe Pato, a Distinguished Technologist at HP Labs

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