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Suggested Citation:"What is CSTB?." National Research Council. 2006. Summary of a Workshop on the Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11573.

What Is CSTB?

As a part of the National Research Council, the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) was established in 1986 to provide independent advice to the federal government on technical and public policy issues relating to computing and communications. Composed of leaders from industry and academia, CSTB conducts studies of critical national issues and makes recommendations to government, industry, and academia. CSTB also provides a neutral meeting ground for consideration of complex issues where resolution and action may be premature. It convenes discussions that bring together principals from the public and private sectors, ensuring consideration of key perspectives. The majority of CSTB’s work is requested by federal agencies and Congress, consistent with its National Academies’ context.

A pioneer in framing and analyzing Internet policy issues, CSTB is unique in its comprehensive scope and its effective, interdisciplinary appraisal of technical, economic, social, and policy issues. Beginning with early work in computer and communications security, cyber-assurance and information systems trustworthiness have been cross-cutting themes in CSTB’s work. CSTB has produced several reports that have become classics in the field, and it continues to address these topics as they grow in importance.

To do its work, CSTB draws on some of the best minds in the country and from around the world, inviting experts to participate in its projects as a public service. Studies are conducted by balanced committees without direct financial interests in the topics they are addressing. Those committees meet, confer electronically, and build analyses through their deliberations. Additional expertise is tapped in a rigorous process of review and critique, further enhancing the quality of CSTB reports. By engaging groups of principals, CSTB gets the facts and insights critical to assessing key issues.

The mission of CSTB is to

  • Respond to requests from the government, nonprofit organizations, and private industry for advice on computer and telecommunications issues and from the government for advice on computer and telecommunications systems planning, utilization, and modernization.

  • Monitor and promote the health of the fields of computer science and telecommunications, with attention to issues of human resources, information infrastructure, and societal impacts.

  • Initiate and conduct studies involving computer science, technology, and telecommunications as critical resources.

  • Foster interaction among the disciplines underlying computing and telecommunications technologies and other fields, at large and within the National Academies.

CSTB projects address a diverse range of topics affected by the evolution of information technology. Recently completed reports include Who Goes There? Authentication Through the Lens of Privacy; The Internet Under Crisis Conditions: Learning from September 11; Cybersecurity Today and Tomorrow: Pay Now or Pay Later; Youth, Pornography, and the Internet; Broadband: Bringing Home the Bits; and Innovation in Information Technology. For further information about CSTB reports and active projects, see <>.

Suggested Citation:"What is CSTB?." National Research Council. 2006. Summary of a Workshop on the Technology, Policy, and Cultural Dimensions of Biometric Systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11573.
Page 47
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Biometrics—the use of physiological and behavioral characteristics for identification purposes—has been promoted as a way to enhance security and identification efficiency. There are questions, however, about, among other issues, the effectiveness of biometric security measures, usability, and the social impacts of biometric technologies. To address these and other important questions, the NRC was asked by DARPA, the DHS, and the CIA to undertake a comprehensive assessment of biometrics that examines current capabilities, future possibilities, and the role of the government in their developments. As a first step, a workshop was held at which a variety of views about biometric technologies and systems were presented. This report presents a summary of the workshop’s five panels: scientific and technical challenges; measurement, statistics, testing, and evaluation; legislative, policy, human, and cultural factors; scenarios and applications; and technical and policy aspects of information sharing. The results of this workshop coupled with other information will form the basis of the study’s final report.

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