Biometric technology is revolutionizing security and identification processes across various industries. With advancements in technology, it now encompasses a wide range of methods, including advanced facial and vocal analysis, creating a more comprehensive and sophisticated approach to authentication and verification.
Verification processes that previously relied on flimsy passwords or arduous paperwork checks can now be completed in moments with high security. This is the new frontier in a world becoming increasingly ‘phygital’ – a seamless blend of the physical and digital realms.
So, what are the major benefits of this ‘phygital’ future? And what obstacles must be overcome to reach it?
Delivering Security and Convenience in One Package
Biometrics have vast potential for providing both security and convenience – two leading priorities for consumers and businesses alike.
The financial industry is using facial scanning to facilitate secure access to apps, while vocal analysis enables customers to reach phone support without going through tedious verification questions.
International travel is also facing a potential revolution, with many airports implementing biometrics to speed up security and immigration controls. Most recently, British Airways trialed a new approach by providing biometrics that eliminate the need for physical passports, aiming for travelers to pass through checkpoints in seconds.
As technology advances, imagine a world where breezing through border controls with a passive facial scan is the norm, and lengthy lines and document checks are a problem of the past.
With speed and convenience comes the very real need for reliable security. The key advantage of biometric identifiers over traditional methods like passwords or physical ID is their unique, untransferable nature. These factors are exclusive to each individual and non-replicable, making unauthorized access or identity fraud significantly harder.
These advanced solutions rely on artificial intelligence techniques to operate effectively. When a facial image is processed by the biometric engine, it generates a unique biometric vector that represents the individual’s face. The facial image itself cannot be reconstructed or obtained from the vector. Instead, the vector serves as a private and abstract mathematical representation of the face. These data are irreversible, ensuring the privacy and security of individuals’ facial information.
When verification is necessary, a new input is compared to the stored template, ensuring a match only when the attempted input aligns accurately with the original template.
This capability has become more critical than ever as the number of data breaches spiral. With more than 422 million records comprised last year alone, it is increasingly difficult to trust traditional factors to manage security.
Doubts Around Privacy and Safety
Nevertheless, while many applaud the convenience of biometric technology, others still harbor valid concerns about security and privacy. These apprehensions revolve primarily around the potential misuse of sensitive biometric data and the unprecedented permanence of this data.
Biometrics offer heightened security compared to traditional username/password combinations. In the event of a lost or compromised biometric vector, there are inherent safeguards in place to protect individuals. Firstly, the irreversible nature of biometric data means that it cannot be reverse-engineered to recreate the original photo or audio. Furthermore, biometric data is not interoperable, meaning it cannot be used by another system or service. Also, the biometric vectors are encrypted, ensuring that the data remains secure and inaccessible to unauthorized parties. These factors contribute to the overall security and integrity of biometric authentication, providing individuals with peace of mind knowing that their biometric information remains protected.
There are also longstanding concerns about biometric technology facilitating the rise of the surveillance state, granting governments an unprecedented ability to monitor and control populations.
The utilization of biometrics hinges on obtaining explicit consent from individuals. In Europe, there are regulations being put in place to govern the use of biometrics in open environments for identification purposes. The aim of these regulations is to restrict its usage and allow it only in specific, limited scenarios where there are substantial justifications, effective oversight and voluntary, free and express previous consent, taking into consideration other potential risks. The overarching objective is to strike a balance between privacy and security concerns when employing biometric technologies.
Examining these concerns in light of recent technological advancements continually enhancing biometrics’ security and efficacy is essential. The challenge is balancing convenience and privacy in this burgeoning ‘phygital’ world.
Managing the Future of Biometric Technology
Biometrics’ legal and ethical implications have come under more scrutiny as it permeates various industries. It will be increasingly important to review how biometrics are applied and how the collected data is secured.
Regulatory standards have a critical role, and several existing regulations already accommodate biometric practices.
In particular, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have established rules for collecting and using biometric data, categorizing it as ‘sensitive’ personal information that requires robust protection. ISO/IEC 30107 also provides guidelines for detecting potential biometric spoofs.
These regulations must evolve alongside technology to continuously necessitate new standards and safeguards. As these developments will undoubtedly shape the future use cases and industry adaptations of biometrics, businesses must navigate these changes carefully, balancing innovation with ethical responsibility.
Looking to the future, the transformative potential of biometric technology is undeniable. It promises to redefine how we verify identities, blending the physical and digital worlds seamlessly. However, navigating its future development requires more than technical ingenuity. It also demands a thoughtful and responsible approach to privacy, security and regulatory compliance. This is the key to unlocking a secure, ‘phygital’ world where convenience and safety go hand in hand.