USPS teams up with FBI to provide biometrics at 100 post offices

The Postal Service is looking to make the most of its massive delivery network by expanding its portfolio of services to include biometrics and geospatial data.

Two years into a pilot with the FBI, USPS now provides digital fingerprinting services at more than 100 post offices across the country, and is looking to provide services that could help agencies onboard and vet trusted employees for their remote workforce.

Before this partnership, the FBI had up to a 14-week turnaround time to process fingerprints for its Identity History Summary Check, but local post offices have processed these fingerprints in less than a day. People go through the fingerprinting program if they apply for a visa, adopt a child or apply for jobs working with children.

The program began in late 2018, when USPS piloted the program at two post offices in Washington, D.C. Since then, the program has been growing rapidly, and has attracted more than 57,000 customers.

USPS has stood up an online scheduling tool and trained clerks to capture the biometrics with fingerprint capture equipment. Heather Dyer, the director of identity and access management at USPS, said Oct. 22 at the General Services Administration’s impact summit on identity that the agency is in the process of procuring a new technology solution for its fingerprinting program in fiscal 2022 and looking to obtain NIST 800-63-A Identity Assurance Level 2 (IAL2). 

USPS started offering its fingerprint services internally to help process the 120,000 employees it hires annually. Before USPS digitized its fingerprinting process, local post offices and processing facilities required new hires to get fingerprinted at nearby police stations, but Lauren Lee, the director of digital business services, said the turnaround time for processing those hard-copy fingerprints took too long.

USPS has processed nearly half a million fingerprints since moving to a digital platform, and has looked to lend its expertise to other agencies.

Lee said the success of the program — and its potential for growth — comes from the agency’s unrivaled delivery network. USPS operates 31,000 post offices, and 99% of the U.S. lives within 10 miles of their nearest post office.

While Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has told Congress that USPS will embark on an ‘ambitious plan’ to cut delivery cost from its network, agency officials see the agency’s emerging biometrics service and other ideas in the works as an opportunity to inject new and much-needed revenue. USPS has ended the past 13 years with net losses and has more than $100 billion in unfunded liabilities.

To make the most of the more than 4.5 million miles letter carriers cover every day, Lee said USPS is looking at putting sensors on delivery vehicles to track data on air quality, broadband spectrum and road repairs. She said the agency is also looking at branching out into selling geospatial data.

“What we find is that the Postal Service carrier is often in locations before the mapping companies even know that there are roads there,” Lee said. “And so we’re looking at creating new address and geospatial services to be able to offer to the geospatial marketplace for mapping purposes.

These ideas, she cautioned, remain in the early stages of development, and USPS is working through the privacy implications of some of these ideas.

USPS is also in the process of developing technology that will allow the agency to leverage mail and package information to be able to provide a “confidence score” that an individual lives at the address that they say they do. Dyer said USPS has partnered with GSA on the project and expects to begin using live data for the project by the end of the fiscal year.

To strengthen the security around Informed Delivery, a service that emails digital scans in incoming household mail, USPS has set up an online identity verification process. But for those that can’t complete the online check, Dyer said customers can now show up to a post office, scan an emailed barcode and show a clerk proof of their identity to enroll in the service.

“What we care about is that that person is who they say they are and has the ability and the access to that address,” she said.

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