The Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) provides biometric match, store, share, and analyze services to DHS and mission partners. The need for biometrics continues to grow among DHS Components; interagency stakeholders (e.g., the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense); state, local, tribal and territorial entities; the Intelligence Community; and international mission partners. Biometrics support critical national security priorities, including counterterrorism and immigration. OBIM is focused on delivering accurate, timely, and high assurance biometric identity information and analysis. OBIM’s overall goals and priorities include continuing to improve biometric services and access to expanded biometric data to enable DHS operational missions.
OBIM provides the Department of Homeland Security and its mission partners with biometric identity services that enable national security and public safety decision making.
OBIM leads the use of biometric identity for a safer world, enhanced individual privacy, and improved quality of life.
OBIM Guiding Principles
- Provide Exceptional Service (Deliver): OBIM delivers consistently exceptional service around the clock to enable operational missions for DHS Components, external mission partners, and international customers.
- Embrace Growth (Develop): OBIM proactively identifies emerging mission requirements and integrates new capabilities into service offerings.
- Refine and Align (Strengthen): OBIM increases service effectiveness by refining processes and aligning the organization to accelerate service delivery.
- Promote Biometric Identity (Position): OBIM positions for the evolution of biometric identity services by looking past the life of this plan to understand and address the future operating environment.
DHS Enterprise Service Provider
OBIM’s services include: fingerprint, face recognition, and iris modalities (both one-to-one and one-to-many); automated match-store-share capabilities; human biometric examiners; and notification services that alert subscribers to encounters, changes in derogatory information, or other activities on individual identities.
The Automated Biometric Identity System (IDENT) is the primary DHS biometric repository, and the largest biometric repository in the U.S. Government. IDENT enables DHS operators and mission partners to more effectively and readily benefit from one another’s biometric data, and is efficient for DHS, avoiding the need for duplicate systems.
Subject Matter Experts
OBIM’s subject matter experts support DHS Components and mission partners in daily operations, developing and fielding new capabilities, and providing thought leadership on future biometric technologies.
As a steward, OBIM and does not own the biometric data that DHS Components and mission partners collect. OBIM’s role is to manage and protect this data on behalf of its partners in accordance with legal, policy, and privacy requirements. Under OBIM’s robust approach to cybersecurity and privacy, each data provider is able to restrict the maintenance, retention, and sharing of its data with other organizations. OBIM provides a conduit to interagency, international, state, and local mission partners. OBIM is the fingerprint provider for the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. OBIM provides support and biometric guidance, serving as the Secretariat for the Biometric Capabilities Executive Stakeholder Committee led by the Deputy Under Secretary for Management and leading biometric standards work. OBIM is also developing guidance on biometric capture quality, and guidance for DHS Components to collect three modalities — fingerprint, face, and iris — at first encounter, for improved identity assurance.
Domestic Information Sharing
The breadth and depth of OBIM’s customer base began with a simple biometric identification service and has expanded to support complex data sharing programs that assist federal, state, and local agencies by providing a large pool of matching partners for biometric queries and interoperability with other biometric repositories, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Next Generation Identification system. A key strength of OBIM’s services is that biometric matching is not limited to a single DHS Component or external mission partner but encompasses encounters across stakeholders. A single query of OBIM’s biometric system can retrieve data for an individual tied to a Department of State visa application, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection log of an entry into the United States, and an immigration status change logged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
International Information Sharing
Protecting the country from transnational threats requires a strengthened homeland security enterprise that shares information across traditional organizational boundaries. Through close federal and international partnerships, DHS works to be sure that resources and information are available international partners, giving those on the frontlines the tools they need to protect local communities. The Department’s efforts include its work through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Preventing and Combating Serious Crime Agreements, agreements to share information on lost and stolen passports, and the sharing of biometrics through IDENT with international partners seeking information on the subjects of wants, warrants, or lookouts, or any other subject of interest for administering or enforcing the law, national security, immigration, or intelligence, or carrying out DHS mission-related functions.
Secure Real-Time Platform (SRTP)
The SRTP is an international information sharing architecture that is scalable to any country. The SRTP pathway provides decision makers with data to assist in the adjudication of immigration benefits, enforcement actions, credentialing, and country access permissions. SRTP currently supports business use cases for refugee claimants, entry clearance (visas), foreign criminals, redocumentation, and fugitives. SRTP enables international partners to transmit and receive queries from IDENT via encrypted internet messages through the DHS gateway. The information exchanged through this automated process includes biometrics and unique person identifiers, photo(s) and biographic information, and fingerprint identification numbers.
Data filtering and business rules allow stakeholders to contribute biometrics to IDENT while respecting the distinct mission requirements, mandates, and regulatory frameworks of each stakeholder. When sharing biometrics, each submitting organization maintains record ownership and can decide who can see its data. Each organization that shares data with IDENT can determine what “watch list” means for their mission, choose from more than 45 derogatory types, and assign a different priority to each derogatory type.
Standards / National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)
NIEM is a common vocabulary that enables efficient information exchange across diverse public and private organizations. NIEM helps various communities save time and money by providing consistent, reusable data terms and definitions, and repeatable processes.
Role in NIEM
The Biometrics Domain in NIEM is overseen by an executive committee chaired by the Assistant Director of Futures Identity at OBIM. The Biometrics Domain supports government exchange efforts in all 50 U.S. states, as well as multiple international communities. OBIM is accompanied on the executive committee by the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, which serve as co-chair representatives.
News / Recent Winners of NIEM Awards
During the 2021 Best of NIEM Awards, held at the organization’s Annual Plenary Session in September 2021, OBIM received the Best of NIEM Award for Exceptional Domain Stewardship. The Best of NIEM Awards honor the contributions of teams that advance the use, growth, and adoption of NIEM.
As the NIEM Biometrics Domain (NBD) Steward, OBIM facilitates the NBD Working Group and brings together NIEM and biometrics subject matter experts to mature the DNA standard. OBIM is an active player in the NIEM community and conducts extensive outreach to communities of interest, government agencies, and various NIEM domains to promote NIEM utilization and implementation. The Biometrics Domain has consistently provided content updates to the NIEM model at each release cycle. Additionally, the NBD team creates and publishes a polished quarterly newsletter. Their most recent accomplishment is the standup of a NIEM GitHub Biometrics Repository with information designed to inform and assist the community.
NIEM 5.1 was published December 2021. This is a minor release that incorporates content identified since the NIEM 5.0 major release was published October 2020. NIEM publishes annual releases on a 3-year cycle. A major release one year is followed by minor releases the subsequent two years.
DHS integrates privacy into all agency activities by:
- evaluating Department programs, systems, and initiatives for potential privacy impacts, and providing mitigation strategies to reduce the privacy impact;
- conducting robust compliance and oversight programs to ensure adherence with federal privacy law and policy in all DHS activities;
- promoting privacy best practices and guidance to the Department’s information sharing and intelligence activities;
- operating a Department-wide Privacy Incident Response Program to ensure that incidents involving personally identifiable information are properly reported, investigated, and mitigated;
- responding to complaints of privacy violations and providing redress, as appropriate; and
- training staff to sustain a culture of privacy across the Department.
Information Sharing Practices / Fair Information Practice Principles
- Privacy Impact Assessments: https://www.dhs.gov/privacy-documents-office-biometric-identity-management-obim
- System of Records Notices: https://www.dhs.gov/system-records-notices-sorns