Biometrics can be defined as a security measure that relies on physical characteristics of a subject in order to check for authenticity. Until recently, biometrics has been used by humans and did not require a computer to assist in authentication. This type of authentication cannot be classified as biometrics because it was as simple as a human recognizing certain qualities and features of customers that would come to a bank, for example. This can be referred to as “human-metrics .” A bank teller recognizes repeat customers who would come in and access their account to withdraw money. Now, with everyone merging to online banking, biometrics helps banks prove that each person withdrawing money is exactly who they say they are by scanning their eyes, reading their fingerprints or scanning their face. This is what biometrics and in this paper there will set up a few examples of who uses it, why we should use it, the pros and cons of it and what is in store for us in the future.
Since biometrics measures physical characteristics for security authentication, who needs it and where will we see biometrics applied? Banking is an industry that already uses biometrics. Currently, customers need to prove they are who they say they are by providing bank account numbers and one or two sources of identification. Now, banking takes it a step further by requiring a fingerprint scan before a teller will allow information about the account be shared. ATM machines have installed voice recognition, fingerprint and iris scan. Some are noticeable where others are discreet. Discreet recognition can occur while you are trying to disperse money from the ATM and the camera scans your face for recognition. Another example of discreet recognition can be found in Las Vegas. As you arrive to a casino, members of security sitting in a hidden room instantly scan your face and compare it to their database of people they do not want in their casino. These people could be criminals or people who have won too much money. Not all biometrics is for security uses for government and major corporations. Some corporations use biometrics to allow patrons to quickly gain access without waiting in line. Busch Gardens, an amusement park in Florida, allows patrons to scan their hand to prove they are a season pass member. This is similar to the “Easy-Pass” lane at toll booths for turnpikes. A season pass member goes to a separate line and simply scans their hand and the gate opens for the patron.
Biometrics not only allows government or corporations to secure their product, it also used as a measuring system. Currently, there are numerous manufacturing systems in place to improve the process. Each system, Lean Manufacturing & Six Sigma as examples, requires lots and lots of data. Normally, this data must be collected by hand for a few weeks. Imagine buying a ticket to an amusement park with cash at nine in the morning and you spend the whole day there. How does the amusement park know how many people to staff at certain roller coasters, restaurants, or concession stands? If every person was required to use their hand as their identification and method of payment, amusement parks could require every person to scan their hand before entering a ride or conveniently pay for their family’s lunch. This measurement allows the park to track their patron’s movement while they are there. This data collection system is convenient to the customer while improving the park’s rates each year. Rates would be improved because they would know where to advertise and which rides and concession stands do better than others. Judging a ride, restaurant and a concession stand by how many people or how much money they make is the thing of the past.
Some would say replacing cash, credit card or identification with biometrics is a bad thing. If you look at security methods of the past where a human would simply look at a person and recognize that this person is a good person or that this person is “good for their money,” you do not need something in your wallet to do that. You can simply use biometrics to allow the old system to work again. The reason the old “human-metrics” cannot be applied today is because we are a society of travelers. It only takes 20 hours to reach China by airplane now and you cannot expect people to trust you when you are not even part of their culture, but a world under biometrics can share information as quick as a split second, can reveal criminal records, credit scores, current employment and family life to allow “human-metrics” to be replaced by biometrics. For those who think this will never happen, shopping malls have the ability to do this by “bluejacking” your cell phone for their measurement system (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/bluetooth-surveillance2.htm).
Biometrics has an advantage over using passwords to secure ATMS and personal items because biometrics cannot be lost or stolen. Current IT Security policies, require passwords to expire after 90 days. This requires you to change your password, and it has to follow the complexity of IT Security’s policy. Forgotten passwords result in numerous dollars spent on the help desk solving problems. Replacing keys with other methods of gaining access, allows companies to spend less on security and prevents unwanted people from gaining access to a privately owned business or government establishment. Biometrics removes stereotypes and profiling which will reduce legal fees and court costs from people who think there was some injustice to random security checks. This way every person is treated the same and every person and the same chance to be denied access. Biometrics improves your personal life by knowing it is secure and only you hold the key to access this information.
Biometrics can also be considered a problem in today’s society. One that was mentioned earlier is corporations and governments know too much about you. A simple traffic stop that is listed on your background check could prevent you from getting insurance. If information is readily available to any corporation and government, they could set standards to who can pass security at an airport or who can do business with them. Their standards may be too high and eliminate people who may had a troubled life, but cleaned themselves up. These methods place double jeopardy on people and may be considered unconstitutional. Biometrics usually requires expensive equipment in order to secure property and information. Corporation may not consider biometrics because of the expense. Passwords are reliable and inexpensive. It can be difficult to prove its worth when one is free and the other cost a lot of money.
Nevertheless, the future of biometrics is here. As biometric equipment become readily available, the cost of the equipment will become reasonable. As stated earlier, there are numerous ways biometrics will impact society. It is secure, effective, and collects accurate data about who is trying to gain access to government or commercial establishments. People will have to embrace this new technology. As we embrace biometrics, we may see a culture change from distrusting to a concept that started many, many generations ago, service with a smile. There may be less people working in security or less people working in customer service related jobs, but with biometrics informing them that this person can be trusted, customer service should improve. “Human-metrics” should make a full circle and stop where customer service is number one.
Osborn, Alice (2009). The future of biometrics — trends and emerging uses for biometric technology Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.video-surveillance-guide.com/future-of-biometrics.htm
4BA2 Network Project (2001). THE FUTURE & ISSUES OF BIOMETRICS Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://ntrg.cs.tcd.ie/undergrad/4ba2.02/biometrics/now.html
Zalman, Ph.D., Amy (2009). Biometric Identification & Homeland Security- -Biometrics Pros and Cons Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://terrorism.about.com/od/controversialtechnologies/i/Biometrics_2.htm
Libin, Phil (?). Pros and Cons of Biometrics Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.assaabloyfuturelab.com/FutureLab/Templates/Page2Cols____293.aspx