Limitations and Downsides of Biometric Technology


Biometric scannerEvery technological innovation is intended to be beneficial for humankind, but along with technical achievement comes a negative side; sometimes subtle, sometimes dangerous as when thieves use skimmers to steal money from individuals at the ATM. Another far more disastrous result came from the production of nuclear fission and fusion, which led to creating the deadliest tool of destruction in the history of human civilization.

It shows that there is always a dark facet of technology, and biometrics is no exception. With all their benefits that we have discussed in the previous article, there are some downsides and limitations to it as well. Here, we will focus our discussion on them so that one can use the technology with a requisite vigilance.

The Downside of Unalterable Physical Features

Biometric authentication is always hailed for its unalterable nature. Physical and anatomical features are there for the rest of one’s life. You can’t change them, temper them, or replicate them. This single characteristic provides biometric technology an edge over conventional authentication and security. Let’s suppose a database of thumb impression is compromised and then used to spoof the unique identities of the affected individuals. You can’t replace the records with other identity markers in such unfortunate cases because everyone has a single thumb impression. Moreover, the affected people can’t ‘reset’ it like one of their passwords and PINs.

Three years ago, an infamous data breach occurred in the United States Office of Personnel Management. Aside from losing other valuable data, the federal organization also suffered a theft of fingerprint records of more than five million workers. A similar data breach also happened in India where millions of fingerprint impressions got comprised.

It is worth mentioning that criminals have come up with fingerprint spoofing techniques. This means they can replicate the thumb impression from any comprised databases for malicious and unauthorized use. Therefore, in such an unfortunate incident, the affected parties have to shift to another authentication protocol since their biometric technology has been compromised.

Even Minor Error Rates in Biometric System are Troublesome

At the core of it, biometric authentication processes are governed by machine devices, which is really vulnerable to errors. There is a leeway of one-off biometric authentication errors. However, if error rates exceed a fractional percentage in a large-scale biometric security setting, then it can create many difficulties for the organization. Biometric chips can produce two types of errors.

False Rejection

When a biometric reading fails to recognize an authorized person, it is termed as false rejection. A biometric machine with high false rejection rates can bring on a chaos in an entry hallway with high foot traffic.

False Acceptance

In case a biometric machine gives access to anyone who is not actually authorized for it, then it is called false acceptance. Any biometric protocol with high false acceptance rates will be damaging for the security mantle of the organization.

Apart from the malfunctioning of the software and hardware, some external factors can also become the reason for biometric errors. For instance, changed weather conditions and physical alterations can crash biometric machines to produce more errors.

Biometric Security Measures Can be Expensive

While fingerprint scanners have become very common in the last couple of years due to their cheap price tags, the other biometric technologies are still really expensive as compared to traditional security measures.

For instance, it is still not a feasible option for a medium and small-scale business to afford retinal scanning or facial and voice recognition tools. In addition, for an extensive security module, the cost of setting up even a simple biometric security protocol can become really costly.

Computing Delays are Part of Biometric Security Systems

Since biometric verifications are processed by computing devices, delays are an inherent downside of this technology. In regular circumstances where biometric authentications are not used extensively, such delays are endurable. However, in places where biometric authentication continues to be in use all the time (schools, factories etc.), these delays can disturb the decorum of the entire organization.

The Backend of Biometric Authentication System is Complex

For organizations that want to devise their own biometric security protocol, they must be prepared for real complex and technical works. Customized biometric software applications, servers, and relevant equipment are the many factors that constitute a full-fledged biometric verification system.

To run such a meshwork of things, the companies will need an extensive amount of resources and experts on a permanent basis. For that reason, many small-scale ventures don’t even consider the implementation of biometric security.

The Issue of Hygiene

The most commonly used biometric modality is contact-based i.e. thumbprint and palm vein scanners. This means a single biometric device based on this recognition is used by hundreds of people every day. This certainly raises the issue of hygiene. You can’t really tell how hygienic the person is who used the device before you. This is the reason why people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder loath contact-based biometrics verification.

One can address this issue by using contactless biometric modalities like voice recognition or iris scanning. However, these authentication variants don’t come cheap.

Final Verdict

Biometric eye scannerIn these two articles, we have discussed biometric technology from a neutral point of view. We have discussed how it can benefit security protocols and database management. We have also shed light on the limitations and counterproductive side of the technology as well.

After looking at both sides of the picture, one can come to the conclusion that biometric security measures are definitely a suitable option for entities with a vast amount of resources or the ones that need to protect high-level confidential information and data. A small business can also rely on basic modalities of biometric authentication for its security.

All in all, it still is a fairly good device for security scans, but for large public organizations with massive foot traffic, it may be better to opt for a higher level of authentication and verification measures, such as the eye scanner shown above..


Posted On October 8, 2018