However, recent advances in imaging have led to far greater resolutions being achieved by fingerprint sensors, so boosting a biometric system’s ability to extract the pertinent information required to create a biometric template of that person.
Children, in particular, seem to hold no fear of the technology, believing it to be “cool”. It may be surprising to learn that at least 1,300 primary schools in the UK are using fingerprint technology to replace old-fashioned password-based systems in their libraries. The interesting spin off benefit here is that so many children want to use the technology that the number of books taken out increases dramatically.
Myth number five on the list relates to the belief that fingerprint information captured by a commercial fingerprint system could somehow be used in a criminal investigation. This myth stems from a misunderstanding of how a biometric system typically works in a commercial environment.
Almost none of the available commercial fingerprint-based systems store the entire image of a fingerprint. Rather they extract information from that fingerprint to create a mathematical representation or template. This template, which is often encrypted, is designed so that it cannot be reverse engineered to reconstruct the original fingerprint image, and so is useless information to the police, or indeed a hacker. (The feeding of identical template data to a fingerprint system’s matching engine by a hacker will normally fail, as this is almost a sure indication that the data has been stolen and that a replay attack is underway.)
In a non-commercial biometric system, such as the recently announced US-VISIT system, which is being installed to monitor the comings and goings of foreign nationals in the USA, the situation is different, with full fingerprint and facial images being acquired and stored. This information can and has led to the arrest of more than 500 people since January 2004.
The silver bullet?
The final myth number six is perhaps the most important. So often biometrics are touted as the silver bullet that will rid the world of evil. Again this is to over-estimate and misunderstand the abilities of biometric technology.
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