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Thursday, February 9, 2012

NBTMV on using biometric technologies to identify people



Biometric technologies use specific features of your body such as fingerprint, facial image, iris pattern, or even the geometry of your hand, to identify you.  Assessing the impact of using biometrics depend on the exact type of use. If your laptop has a fingerprint reader where you swipe your finger to log in, then all we may need to worry about is the possibility that the system somehow could not match your fingerprint with what was previously stored in the system, in which case, there should be some alternate method for logging into the laptop.

On the other hand, if biometric technology such as facial recognition is used to identify a person from among millions in a database, then we have to think about many more things.

For  starters, you know that your fingerprint or facial image or iris pattern do not come with your name stamped on the it, which means that some computer system has to store your identifying information with your biometric features.  That association must be correct when it’s initially stored (meaning that your biometrics are linked to your identifying information) and the information must be securely stored and maintained.

Next, we have to consider the potential of errors in the system that compares and matches your biometric features such as your fingerprint or your facial image with information stored in a database. There is a possibility of misidentification where someone else’s biometric may be identified as yours or vice versa. This means that we need to provide some redress mechanism for anyone who is misidentified. This is especially important if the biometric is being used to look for a criminal, for example, and you are mistakenly tagged as that criminal.

Another potential problem is when someone intentionally tries to fool the system by presenting, for example, a photograph of you as that your facial image.

These are among some of the issues that we need to consider when assessing the impact of using biometric technologies to identify people.

Here's some more information to help you...
In 2002 GAO had published the following report that assesses use of biometric technologies for improving border security:
GAO-03-174, Nov 15, 2002

There are a number of books on biometric technologies as well:

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