The Truth About Biometric Systems
The Truth About Biometric Systems

According to Unisys Corporation, almost 70% of worldwide consumers like the idea of trusted institutions adopting biometric identification systems. That may well be the case, but the remaining 30% are certainly letting their opinion be heard.

Biometrics: standards for measuring living organisms. In this case, people. Biometric devices with recognition technology have been developed to identify individuals based on unique characteristics such as palm print, fingerprint, hand geometry, face, iris, and voice, and to grant them access to confidential information or locations. Biometric technology is an ever increasingly hot topic, and as it gains acceptance and momentum, so does it gain controversy.

Biometric technology has been implemented or suggested for:

  • Access control for various industries including aviation, corporate education, and government
  • E-passports and other travel documents
  • Individual identity verification for medical records, banking data, and law enforcement
  • Secured technology, including computers, external hard drives, keyboards, mice, USB drives, and cell phones
  • Home security, including security panels, biometric locks, safes, and more

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Biometric Systems

The advantages of integrated biometric technology are obvious. Convenience -- no more having to carry keys and cards, no more memorizing countless account numbers and passwords. And since your identification system is your very own body (or voice), your identity will be far more difficult to steal. However (and it's a big however)... what happens if your biometric data is compromised? It's possible to replace a stolen credit card, social security card, even a social security number, but it's a different story when it comes to replacing the absolutely unique data that identifies your voice, fingerprints, or retinas.

Also, no system is foolproof, and biometric devices have varying success rates. Individuals have reported "fooling" fingerprint biometric systems with no more than moisture applied to a photocopy then pressed onto a biometric lock. In addition, 2% of the population has indistinguishable fingerprints, which doesn't sound like a lot, but at the time this article was written equates to 134,843,046 people!

And last, but certainly not least on the list of scary biometric considerations, is the "Big Brother" factor. Your individual biometric data will be stored in various databases in order to verify your identity with various institutions. Not only do you not know whose eyes will see that information or what they might choose to do with it, but should the FBI decide to access that information, said institution will be forced to provide it.

So, now that you have both sides of the biometrics story, what's your vote?