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Introduction to Biometrics

Biometrics, or the use of biological properties (e.g., fingerprints, retina scans, voice recognition) to identify individuals, are increasingly popular methods of identification. They are no longer confined to criminal law enforcement and the imagination of science fiction writers dreaming of hand-recognition as an automatic door opener and remote eye-scanning while entering a shopping mall. Businesses now use biometrics to regulate access to buildings and information. Governments are contemplating the inclusion of biometric identifiers in passports, driver's licenses, and possibly a future national ID card. Digital video surveillance is spreading in private and public places.

However, biometric technologies incite fears of constant supervision, profiling and control, leading to a loss of individuality, privacy and freedom. Many people feel uneasy being scanned and are alarmed about having their bodily data digitally stored in large databases along with sensitive personal information. Many questions arise: Can we trust the accuracy of biometric technology? Who controls the collection of biometric data? And who has access to the databases and for what purpose?

What are biometric systems?

Biometric systems are automated, mostly computerized systems using distinctive physio-biological or behavioral measurements of the human body that serve as a (supposedly) unique indicator of the presence of a particular individual.

The October 2003, Interim Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration defines biometrics as "the technology that takes physical or behavioral characteristics of individuals and converts them into digital data. They are then encrypted into a system, which can be an individual card, from which subsequent comparisons are made".

Some biometric systems do not only measure and record biometric characteristics of a person, but match the obtained biometric data to a database containing additional information about the individual in question, depending on the purpose of the system in use. This database can contain membership information, health information, access rights etc. The possibilities ares virtually endless.
Another characterization of biometric systems is the distinction between one-to-one (1 to 1) matching and one-to-many (1 to n) matching. The former is often called 'verification' or 'authentication', the latter 'identification', although the terminology varies in biometrics literature. One-to-one matching means that the biometric data obtained by the on-the-spot scan is matched to only one sample stored in a database or card chip. If the scan and the sample match, the person is positively identified. One-to-many matching means that the biometric data obtained by the on-the-spot scanner is matched to a multitude of stored samples and the system is trying to find the right match, or at least the best match.

If you want to know whether biometrics is right for organization, please contact us  we have a team of experts who have been in the industry of time management for well over 20 years. Our direct experience with the different types of biometrics is second to none.