The number of passwords used through the average course of a single day can be mind-numbing. Enter into a discussion about biometrics, and everyone has an opinion. Will biometrics make life easier, or is it the sign of the devil as we enter the future era of a cashless society? The eternal controversy of ‘security and safety’ versus ‘freedom and privacy’ runs strong, providing an ethics-based background to this quandary.
In examining the situation, we know that biometrics offers unique yet individually measurable characteristics of each person. A goal of biometrics is to find the ultimate, matchless characteristic of the human body: a universal attribute of any human automatically recognized with the help of specialized sensors. Physiological biometrics would seem to be more dependable than behavioral biometrics; however, fingerprints can be altered, irises can change over time with medical circumstances, and DNA is difficult to collect and process.
Scientists continue to search for new biometrics, and everything from brain waves to heart rhythms or from MRI knee scans to blood analysis is fair game. A biometrics system captures a characteristic and converts it into a digital pattern for comparison and identification. Modern technology allows for verification and determination of one’s identity through such human characteristics and can turn the human body into a password.
Placing popular discussions about privacy and freedom concerns aside for a moment, one cautionary biometrics issue remains that many people do not seem to consider, and it resides in the security of valued objects. A password can be figured out or stolen before later being canceled and reset. As for a measurable characteristic of the human body, well, researchers are still working on how to reset biometrics identification. In the meantime, a stolen password seems much more desirable than anything else that could be stolen in attempts to beat a biometric security system algorithm.
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