CEO, Secure Identity & Biometrics Association
Janice Kephart was working on the 9/11 Commission when she uttered something that stuck. “I think the phrase that everybody knows is ‘assuring that a person is who they say they are.’ It’s kind of a benchmark phrase for the industry and for government in all kinds of ways, and now for the commercial sector as well,” Kephart says.
Biometrics became a big part of Kephart’s work after the September 11 attacks, but she’s been involved with the identity market since the late 90’s. She served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology and Terrorism where she was responsible for conducting investigations into counter-terrorism issues and had oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She put together the only Congressional hearing into the foreign terrorist threat prior to 9/11.
After the attacks, she signed on as counsel to the 9/11 Commission. The panel was charged with compiling the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and providing recommendations to prevent future attacks.
“We realized that there must be a better way to identify somebody in a way that they can’t lie about it, and that came down to biometrics,” Kephart says. The commission concluded its work in 2004 in the early days of biometric technologies. “Today, we have huge varieties of biometrics – all extremely accurate and mature technologies – that help prevent identity theft and secure both the commercial and public sectors.”
Kephart founded the Secure Identity and Biometrics Association (SIBA) in early 2014 to promote use of these important technologies across both government and enterprise markets.
Kephart says her most significant accomplishments came as a result of her work on the 9/11 commission:
- The U.S. has largely implemented the commission’s recommendations into the use of biometrics. “The Office of Biometric Identity Management at the Department of Homeland Security does more than 300,000 identity transactions per day,” Kephart says.
- Everybody crossing the U.S. border must now present a passport and can no longer just orally declare citizenship.
- Minimum identity standards are required for driver licenses. “Controversial, yes, but it has driven assurance and ushered in massive reductions in identity fraud,” she says.
- More secure processing at ports of entry using biometrics. Foreign nationals have to provide ten fingerprints and have their pictures taken and many other biometric initiatives are underway.
Kephart says her work in biometrics has sometimes been an uphill battle. “There have been many times when women have not been perceived as a great value to the industry. We are engineers, leaders, great advocates, and we have much that we can offer to the industry,” Kephart says. “I think it’s beginning to break through, but it’s taken quite a while.”
Her future plans include work around biometric access control in various sectors. “There are many forms of access: cyber access, physical access, border control. So there are places that still need work,” Kephart says. “Probably the biggest one is the implementation of a biometric exit for immigration at both our land and air ports of entry.” She also wants to see more collaboration with international partners.
In the meantime, SIBA is thriving. “To me, this award shows that our trade organization is the leader in advocacy and I hope we can build upon it,” Kephart says.
Since this interview, Kephart left SIBA to work with MorphoTrak.