are your digits secure?

Biometric security systems that use fingerprints, retinal images, hand geometry, and other coded aspects of body parts face the same issues of standards and compatibility that confront all new technologies. Currently even systems using the same identifier cannot share their databases, and potential buyers must sort through unverified claims of superior performance. Recognizing the need for standards, Identicator and Miros have joined with Compaq, IBM, Microsoft, and Novell in founding the BioAPI

Nov 1st, 1998

are your digits secure?

Stephen J. Matthews

Biometric security systems that use fingerprints, retinal images, hand geometry, and other coded aspects of body parts face the same issues of standards and compatibility that confront all new technologies. Currently even systems using the same identifier cannot share their databases, and potential buyers must sort through unverified claims of superior performance. Recognizing the need for standards, Identicator and Miros have joined with Compaq, IBM, Microsoft, and Novell in founding the BioAPI consortium.

Jim Wayman, director of research at the National Biometric Test Center at San Jose State University (San Jose, CA), thinks the time is right for independent testing of all types of biometric security. Funded by a grant from the Department of Defense, the Center has begun cross testing biometric systems and will make public its reports. San Jose State is also the first US university to offer graduate-level study in biometric identification.

The prospect that biometric security will soon be commonplace is something to fear, in the view of privacy advocates. As Mark David, editor of Automatic ID. News writes, "It is hard to shake that niggling refrain of `Big Brother is watching` as you are leaving your digital body parts, one by one, in database after database." Wired magazine states that the public`s fear of Big Brother will block the widespread acceptance of biometric technology.

Recognizing the issue of privacy in biometrics, the California legislature is considering the Consumer Biometric Privacy Protection Act. If passed, the legislation will forbid the collection of any biometric data that conflict with antidiscrimination laws specifically related to race or gender. The collection of biometric data will be allowed only with the consent of the individual.

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