Biometric identification is becoming more and more popular as computing solutions become more practical. In short, biometric identification is the positive or negative verification of a person using their physical properties. These properties can include fingerprints, retinas, voice, DNA, or facial structure. Here are some of the most significant applications of biometric identification.
Workplace security is vitally important. Letting the right people into a facility and keeping the right people out, ensuring the work computers can only be accessed by authorized personnel, and making absolutely sure that all financial records are accounted for are all crucial tasks. Biometric identification is being widely adopted by business owners to ensure that corporate theft is kept to an absolute minimum. Many high-security businesses require multi-stage authentication – including a biometrics stage – before an employee can access sensitive programs and documents.
Airports and borders
Airports and border control areas are usually some of the first places to introduce new and innovative biometric identity solutions. Large airports like Heathrow in the United Kingdom use a two-stage authentication process to process travelers entering the country. Travelers scan their passports. They are then asked to pose for a facial scan, which matches their passport photo to the proportions of their face. This speeds up and secures the border control process. Border points around the world have installed similar systems.
If you have purchased a smartphone in the last three years, you will have been given a few options for unlocking it that go beyond the usual password screen. Biometric authentication is now a standard mobile feature. Users can log their fingerprint, facial shape, and even voice to get into their smart devices. Many smartphone applications also require biometric identification. Crypto wallets, for instance, often ask for one or more biometric identification types.
Biometric identification has long been used in law enforcement. Take DNA and fingerprint identification as examples: these have been in use by police forces around the world since the 1980s to positively identify criminal suspects.
In more recent years, police forces around the world have pushed for the use of facial recognition algorithms to be allowed so that they can identify suspects easily and quickly. This has received considerable pushback, including from Amnesty International. The human rights charity claims that facial recognition technology may serve to amplify racist policing tactics and diminish the personal freedom of anonymity. There is some precedent for this. Police in the People’s Republic of China have been accused of using facial recognition technology to racially profile Muslim ethnic minority members that are currently being subjected to extreme controls.
Overall, the use of biometric identification methods by law enforcement agencies is a foggy field – and one that should evolve in parallel with complex conversations about the ethics of identification and surveillance as a whole. It seems unlikely that law enforcement agencies will be stopped from using biometric ID, so the public and political cadres must hold them accountable for its ethical use.