Biometrics: Unique Physical Body Demographics



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Biometric technology is used in the security industry. It in integrated  with other authentication applications and technologies such as: domain access, single sign-on, smart cards, encryption, remote access and digital signatures. Biometrics authenticates a person based on physical body demographics and or behavioral characteristics. You are your own password. Passwords and pin numbers can be easily compromised Biometrics gives  stronger alternative security.


The biometric solution can be based on physical or characteristic attribute recognition. Examples of physical attributes include ear, face, finger geometry, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris and retina. Characteristic attributes include gait, odor, signature, typing pattern and voice. These are the most common biometric solutions available.


Fingerprinting is the most common biometric technology. It is the common ink-and-roll procedure used in booking suspects or conducting criminal investigations. Forensic scientists use fingerprint applications in large scale (million plus)  database searches. Today’s most popular fingerprint scanning techniques include optical, silicon and ultrasound. Optical scanning is the oldest and most commonly used. The user typically places their finger on a clear scanning platform. A device converts the image using dark ridges and light valleys into a digital signal using an automatic contrast adjuster.


Silicon technology began in the late 1990’s. It has gained acceptance since its inception. It relies on direct-current capacitance. A silicon sensor acts as one plate of a capacitor with a finger being another. Software converts capacitance between plate and finger into a digital image. Generally silicon produces a better quality image than an optical approach. The newest and most accurate technology is the ultrasound. It can penetrate dirt and residue. Optical’s inability to master this is its main drawback. Ultrasound scans are more expensive but more precise.


Integrity with biometric scanning systems is crucial. An example is assuming that input was presented by the legitimate owner and that the system matched the input pattern with genuinely enrolled patten samples. There are two serious criticisms of biometric technologies. First that an assailant or hacker could gain access to or replicate the  individual identifier. The second criticism is that once an identifier has been compromised the recourse method of revocation and replacing is then  rightfully questioned.

There are three main social-cultural concerns associated with biometrics. They are informational privacy, physical privacy and religious objections. The most serious informational issues concern the threat of function creep and tracking capabilities. Function creep or mission creep expands the original purpose of obtaining biometric information to include additional purposes.  Information obtained using this method can be done without the originator’s knowledge. Definite ethical issues arise when this occurs.


Tracking is thought of by some as a specific type of functional creeping. Tracking is the ability to monitor in real time or to search databases containing information about a specific individual. In some ways biometrics provides better security,  as the biometric identifier is much more difficult to steal or counterfeit.  Physical privacy concerns include the stigma associated with some biometrics such as fingerprints,  the possibility of actual harm to individual participants and the concern that devices used to obtain or read the biometric may be unhygienic. People may not feel comfortable putting their faces against a reader to have a retina scan after knowing that others have done so or touching a hand scanner during the flu season in the U.S.


One example of religious objections might be based on a Christian group interpreting the use of biometrics as, “The mark of the beast” based on verses from the book of Revelations in the Christian bible. Revelation 13:16-18 “The beast causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond to receive  a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save that he had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name…and his number is six hundred, threescore, and six. ”

Most U. S. states driver’s licenses use biometrics having legislature requiring the collection of fingerprints. Those states include California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Texas. The FBI, U. S. Department of Defense and other government controlled agencies use the collection of biometric information.

One of the most promising aspects concerning biometrics  is the conquering of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission identifies identity theft as  far outweighing all other fraud complaints.


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