Biometics is the field of technology that collects, identifies and uses an individual’s unique physiological and behavioural traits to authenticate and verify them. Its main goal is to increase security and safety while maintaining an acceptable level of privacy and enhancing the convenience of human life.
There are many types of biometrics and a wide range of applications. Morphological identifiers include fingerprints, palm prints, vein patterns and the eye (iris and retina). For biological analyses, DNA, blood, saliva or urine are used.
Identification answers the question “Who am I?”, while authentication answers the question “Are I who I say I am?” In both cases, biometrics require a centralized database that allows several persons’ personal data to be matched against each other and stored securely.
In law enforcement and immigration, criminal ID solutions include fingerprint and palm print authentication systems. In healthcare, biometric systems are used to identify patients and access medical records.
While biometrics are incredibly secure and can’t be copied, they also pose significant challenges for users. These include privacy concerns and the potential to be used for unintended functions (function creep), which is when citizens’ information is used for other purposes than those agreed upon by them. These issues are particularly significant in the context of governmental surveillance, which often demands that sensitive personal data be held for longer periods and for more than one purpose.