Fallibility of Automated Biometric Recognition Technologies

Article excerpt

A new report by the National Research Council says ihai biometrie systems - designed f<> automatical]}· recogjii/e individuals based on biological and behavioral tniits such as fingerprints, palm prints, or voice or face recognition - are "inherently fallible." It says that to strengthen the science and improve system effectiveness, additional research is needed at virtually ¿til levels of design and operation.

Biometrie systems are increasingly used Io regulate access to facilities, informaiion, and other rights or benefits, but questions persist about their effectiveness as security or surveillance mechanisms. The systems provide "probabilistic results,'" meaning thai confidence in results must be tempered by an understanding of the inherent uncertainty in any given system, the report says. It notes that when the likelihood of an imposter is rare, even systems with very accurate sensors and matching capabilities can have a high false-alarm rate. This could become cosily or even dangerous in systems designed to provide heightened security; lor example, operators could become Ux about dealing with potential threats.

The report identifies numerous sources of uncertainty in the systems that need to be considered in system design and operation. For example, biometrie characteristics may vary over an individual's lifetime due to age, stress, disease, or other factors, Technical issues such as calibration of sensors also contribute to variability in these systems. …