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Your Take: Would Biometrics for Authentication Bother You?

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Biometrics, loosely defined as the process of using a person’s physical characteristics for identification, is slowly gaining popularity and their use may soon extend to credit cards. Privacy is always a hot button concern in the US, just think back to when AOL released all that search data, and the collection and storage of your physical characters, one of the most personal of things, is something that probably would both a lot of people. So I’m curious, if biometric data were required, would it bother you? If it was optional, would you elect it?

I have mixed feelings on this. I’m not a gung-ho privacy advocate in some aspects and conservative in others. For example, I’m comfortable with people being able to see the websites I surf but I don’t want my information stored somewhere if it’s not absolutely necessary. I can see the value of using biometrics as a means of authentication and so would definitely elect to “activate” any biometric-related security features. It’s easy to fake a signature, it’s much harder to fake a fingerprint or retina scan.

As you probably suspected, one of the places where biometric authentication has become pretty popular is Japan (they get all the cool gadgets and gizmos before we do!). One of the reasons is because in Japan you can generally withdraw from the ATM the equivalent of thousands of dollars each day, so the higher security measures are required. Granted, this is the bank, which knows all your financial information anyway, but it’s an example of how biometrics have been rolled out and accepted.

So, what are your thoughts?

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9 Responses to “Your Take: Would Biometrics for Authentication Bother You?”

  1. Lily says:

    As long as there’s no extensive probing …

    I think biometrics sure beats some of the security measures in place now. I especially despise the “security questions” on websites. Your mom’s maiden name? Your elementary school? Your best friend? I can probably Google the answer for at least a few strangers.

    I guess my concern would be whether the technology would work, all the time. The technology is more complicated than what is in place now. I bet there are a lot more false negatives (your biometrics fails to unlock security to your accounts) than there is now with PINs and whatnot. Might be a pain in the butt to get those errors fixed.

  2. Posco says:

    I’m resigned to the notion that biometrics will soon be a fact of life. But as a computer scientist, it bothers me A LOT. Given the option, I would not use it for myself.

    The reason is this: Biometrics is the reduction of my personally identifying body parts into a string of numbers. You and your computer may not be good at reproducing my retinas, but, heck, a 5-year old can reproduce a string of numbers. Never forget that digital computer systems ONLY understand numbers. And once that file containing millions of strings of numbers representing millions of retinas is compromised, then what? Retina laser surgery to change your password? No, thank you!

    Information solely based on my physical characteristics are irrevocable. If I need to change my certificate of identity, I’ll have to add other (random) information, which brings us right back to remembering passwords and pass phrases.

  3. plonkee says:

    It’s the irrevocableness of it that bothers me too. I can’t change my fingerprint / retina / DNA if someone steals my identity. And whilst it might be harder, it wouldn’t be impossible.

  4. Plonkee makes excellent an excellent point.

    I am against it because it means too much invasion of my privacy and I really don’t trust anyone to handle that type of information in order to access my money. I mean really, what if something happens, a glitch of sorts that would make me the guinea pug during their growing pains. I’m not up for it. What they need to do is start with some more common sense approaches such as increasing the security breaches we have now. There’s no reasons why identity thieves.

  5. Rev says:

    I am against it. There is enough tracking and surveillance as it is. If it reaches public acceptance in one area it will branch out to others it wasn’t intended for.

  6. vh says:

    Absolutely!

    Our privacy has been eroded quite enough, thank you.

  7. Phil Lavoie says:

    I agree about the real technical issues surrounding Biometrics, “something you are”.

    I feel it is a good form of identifciation, but not authentication. That is why the police take fingerprints and airports use facial recognition. Biometrics are a good form factor to find those who don’t want to be found.

    In order to make Biometrics useful, they need to be coupled with another form factor. The two most common are “something you know” and “something you have”. A PIN or a smartcard can help satisify these requirements. The positive is that both can be changed/replaced.

    The idea of a Smartcard help further the situation because the “digital ID” can be stored on the smart card that you presumably have more control over. If it is stolen, you may have an idea well ahead of just your fingerprint being captured over a network.

    But at the end of the day, the privacy concerns and the idea of who “owns” the data if you end the business relationship is what scares me the most.

  8. I believe, biometrics like any other technology can greatly benefit mankind but as with any other technology it can be abused (ie nuclear energy). But it may present some issue for example what if human cloning becomes acceptable? will biometrics see throught the clones?

  9. Ben says:

    I was against it when they introduced it as a security feature to get into the office floor I work on. I had two choices refuse and get another job or get my finger print scanned. I got my fingers scanned.


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