Visual authentication requires guards to examine the topographical features on the front and back of the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card. The guard checks to see that the PIV card appears to belong to the cardholder by comparing the photograph on the card with the cardholder. The guard is also required, among other things, to check the card’s printed expiration date and verify the presence of security features that are meant to discourage tampering and falsification.
Visual authentication alone does not provide an adequate level of assurance. Its effectiveness depends on the training, skill, and diligence of the guard. Counterfeit IDs can pass visual authentication easily, even when guards are well-trained. According to the NIST, exclusive use of visual authentication may be appropriate only in limited circumstances, such as at a federal office that has very few employees.
- GAO, Personal ID Verification: Agencies Should Set a Higher Priority on Using the Capabilities of Standardized Identification Cards 10 (GAO-11-751) (Sept. 2011) (full-text).