Biometric Myths: Facts Versus Fiction

Biometric Myth #1 -Biometrics won’t work for everyone, or will falsely reject some people too often to be reliable.

There are a variety of issues that can affect a biometric authentication system’s accuracy. For instance, if a biometric authentication solution was only tested on a small, racially uniform group of people, it will be far less accurate than if it were tested on a racially diverse group of people with a variety of features and skin colors. Increasing the size and diversity of the test group will decrease the False Rejection Rate and is essential for creating an accurate and reliable authentication solution

Biometric Myth #2 - My fingerprints can be “erased” to hide my identity.

There are many stories of someone altering or removing their fingerprints, most of which are purely fictional. While you could, potentially, remove your prints, the process would be long and painful, and eventually the skin would grow back and have prints on it once more. Scarring your fingertips would change your prints, but the prints are still there, just altered. While you can change your prints, it’s not as easy as popular media would lead you to believe.

Biometric Myth #3 - If I get plastic surgery my facial recognition system will stop authenticating me.

Only if you are having your face completely reconstructed including changing your underlying bone structure, would your facial recognition solution be fooled. A significant portion of plastic surgery operations consist of ‘minor’ changes such as rhinoplasty or procedures to reverse the signs of aging. They don’t alter the key characteristics that facial recognition algorithms use to identify you – the relative position of your eyes, nose, and mouth, the shape of your eyes, your jawline, etc.

Biometric Myth #4 - My biometrics will change too much as I age to be reliable.

While some biometrics, such as face and voice recognition, are affected by aging, higher complexity biometrics like your fingerprints and iris maintain their quality over decades to ensure an accurate match. However, if you register your fingerprint at 25, and try to match against it at 85, you might get denied – your fingertips are exposed to the elements and will have some wear and tear over the years that may alter them slightly. Only your iris, which is well protected, doesn’t change over long spans of time.

Biometric Myth #5 - Biometric sensors are unhygienic.

Some people may be wary of using biometrics because of hygiene concerns. They believe that touching a fingerprint sensor deployed in a public space, such as at an ATM, increases the risk of spreading germs or more serious diseases. However, when it comes to an ATM you’re already using the touchpad or screen to interact with the machine, so the same, perceived, hygienic risk is already present. And, many biometric deployments today use touchless sensors for face, voice, or iris recognition, and many are also deploying mobile-based solutions, eliminating this concern entirely.

Want to learn more? Read our blog series Biometric Mythbusters.