My Thumb is My Passport: Using Biometrics

Beyond fingerprints

There are more advanced biometric techniques that are used by the military and companies that need very high security; most aren’t practical for everyday use. Scanning the iris or retina requires expensive equipment-retinal scanning is particularly intrusive, because you have to stand still while a light is shined directly into your eye. Voice recognition is unreliable if you have a cold or there’s a lot of background noise, and it would be too easy to use a recording to get past the system.

A whole-hand scanner is far too big and bulky to use at home and it measures the geometry of your hand rather than the print, which may not be different enough between people. Hitachi has a scanner that shines a strong light onto one finger; this matches the pattern of veins under the skin. Not only are vein patterns as unique as fingerprints, they’re invisible until illuminated, so they’d be hard to copy onto a dummy finger. The scanner looks for blood flow as well. On the downside, the hardware is bulky and expensive. Similarly, Fujitsu has a $265 PalmSecure mouse that will scan the veins in your palm.

fujitsu palmsecure hitachi

Scanning the pattern of veins-and looking for blood flow-could be more secure than scanning a fingerprint, but the devices are much bigger and bulkier.

As Webcams become more common, facial biometrics may become an alternative. This technique calculates the characteristics of a face-the distance between the eyes, the width and height of the face, the proportions of the nose and other features that aren’t affected by the expression on your face or whether you grow a beard or cut your hair-and stores them as a set of numbers known as an eigenface. This is the information stored on the chip in a biometric passport, and it’s compared against the characteristics calculated by the system when you’re photographed at the immigration desk when you return from abroad.

Facial recognition is convenient, because you don’t have to touch or press anything, but facial recognition tools like Visionics FaceIt and Viisage are designed for large corporate systems like identifying ATM users, searching driver license databases, or surveillance. They’re used in casinos, and by some police forces monitoring public areas like beaches.

Recognix claims to do facial recognition with a Webcam. While its FaceCode software works well, recognizing registered faces and rejecting strangers, it hasn’t been updated in two years, and a promised Pro version to work on networked PCs hasn’t appeared. Facial recognition also isn’t the most accurate system for identifying people. It’s used for surveillance because it can be done without suspects co-operating, and it was chosen for passports because it makes people feel less like criminals than more intrusive information-especially if you don’t realize the information is being gathered.

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  • Anonymous
    i have an MS fingerprint scanner, when might the drivers come out for windows vista x64???
  • Lt Smash
    That last paragraph about scar messing up your biometric reading...does this mean that I can't use biometrics since I'm a diabetic? I prick my fingers 10-15 times a day so I've got constant scar tissue forming and healing...that would suck if I couldn't, cause I've always dreamed of fingerprint door locks.
  • Anonymous
    A word of caution for fingerprint readers. Well not so much the readers but the act of using them for security. The US Gov't can't force you to give up your password because it's 'something you know'. But they can make you give up your fingerprints because it's 'something you are'. They can legally compel you to open your computer since it's just your fingerprint as the password. If you have a typed password, they can't.
  • Anonymous
    Beware, this is the first few steps before the "mark of the beast". No I'm not religious, it's just kind of freakish to see the book of "Revelations" happen right before our eyes since y2k...
  • Anonymous
    Well, these things don't work worth a squat, these finger print readers do not work for me. The technology needs to be further developed, before it can be wide spread.
  • Anonymous
    BewareOfDolphy- I agree, There's no way anyone should agree with this especially seeing as how the pentagon went on record as saying they want every americans thumb print and eye identification.

    I'm not even a religious person but I can see this "can't buy or sell with out the mark" thing coming.
  • ModdoG
    when u use the keyboard ,plug it out and swap with another one .
    and your in the pc,LOL
  • Anonymous
    Not a too good way for security, while we leave almost our finger print everywhere...
  • Anonymous
    They need to fast track the fingerprint readers and make them part of every day life. Only those with criminal tendencies will have an issue with it. As I live in the country with the highest crime rate I am willing to give up freedom for a safer environment and loger life.
  • Anonymous
    I don't see the security in fingerprint readers. It's just as easy to bypass them. If anything it offers password text security without having to remember anything. As government databases become more widespread with the use of fingerprinting, why would you want your own personal information stored with the same "key" (fingerprint) that the government has on file? Sounds ridiculous.
  • Anonymous
    i agree with PixelPusher220, in the future when fingerprint is used as password to almost everything, e-mail or banking, etc. i think there'll be a lot of folks loosing their thumbs because some crooks cut 'em!
  • Anonymous
    they are amazing. I have one for my of
  • Anonymous
    Its ok. Quality is not great on those cheap ones. Http://
  • Anonymous
    The book of revelations, is written and followed by the illumanati and who sell the mark of the beast to the brainwashed public.....