Killing the Need for Passwords With Biometrics [Bloomberg]
Biometric technology uses our unique body traits to establish identity, replacing passwords as the log in criteria for our devices. Learn more about this rapidly growing technology.
Should we continue to develop more advanced biometric technologies, or should we stop and simply use older methods of security, such as passwords? #DoNowBiometrics
How to Do Now
Do Now by posting a video response in this week’s Flipgrid. Join the conversation here.
You can also post your response on Twitter or in the comment section below. Be sure to include #DoNowBiometrics in your tweet.
In recent years, the development of biometric technology in our everyday lives has grown tremendously. Biometric verification analyzes physical characteristics that are unique to each individual as a means of authentication. A popular example of biometric technology is Touch ID found on Apple iPhones and iPads. Touch ID has the ability to unlock a user’s phone with just a scan of their fingerprints. Additionally, Touch ID is an integral part of Apple Pay, which allows users to pay with their phones instead of carrying around payment cards. To purchase an item, users simply hold their device up to a wireless payment terminal while holding their finger on TouchID. Using their fingerprint to verify the use of the payment card, transactions are completed in an instant without ever pulling out their wallets. As society becomes more reliant on biometrics as a means of authentication, the demand for protection against theft has been subject to debate.
What Are Biometrics?
With technology progressing at an exponential rate, biometric technology has become more prevalent in our lives. Biometrics utilizes body parts that show minimal change over time; common biometric identifiers include fingerprint scans, retinal scans, and voice recognition. For example, a fingerprint scanner takes a multitude of images of a fingerprint, mapping out ridges and curves. The map is then converted into code that is stored on the device or cloud database for future verification. Biometric information is stored as data, similarly to passwords, but instead of letters and numbers, patterns and characteristics are saved as a series of numbers. Essentially, an encrypted image or sound acts as a password. Biometrics has become very popular because of how easy and secure it makes accessing high security items, such as bank accounts. With advances in biometric security features, we may soon be paying for our groceries using our earlobes.
Biometric security has been regarded as the most secure identification measure due to its life-long sustainability and uniqueness to a person. In other words, biometric identifiers are nearly impossible to fraud, and are therefore more secure compared to the traditional password method that is designed using attackable software. In a New York Times article titled “From Man to Machine”, it is calculated that the chances of two people having identical irises is about 1 in 10^78, which drastically reduces the probability of yielding false identification. In addition to accountability, biometric security is often favored because of its convenience and efficiency. Imagine you’re standing in line for Christmas shopping, wouldn’t it be much faster if everyone can make transactions only by pressing their thumbs on a small device?
While the use of biometric authentication would revolutionize everyday life with added efficiency and convenience, it would be accompanied by an increased privacy risk. According to a recent article in Wired, while passwords and traditional security measures are private by nature, “biometrics… are inherently public.” Our bodies are on display all the time; body parts used for biometric identification, such as fingers and eyes, can be accessed easily in comparison to protected passwords and security badges. The Biometric News Portal also points out that once “a set of biometric data be compromised, it is compromised forever.” The possibility of government misuse of this technology is another downside to the widespread use of biometric security. The FBI’s biometric database, which includes criminal and noncriminal photos and fingerprints, has been criticized for its infringement of privacy according to a 2014 article from Fast Company. Overall, the threat biometrics poses to personal privacy may outweigh the convenience it brings.
What do you think should be done with biometric technology? Should we continue to expand on it, or should we stop and simply use older methods of security, such as passwords?
ARTICLE: Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks (Scientific American)
ARTICLE: The Macbook Pro’s Most Important New Feature? Touch ID (Wired)
KQED Education partners with phenomenal organizations to bring you the Science Do Now activities. This post was written by the following youth from the California Academy of Sciences’ TechTeens program:
Alexander B., Arianna W., Cole P., Alexander Y., Jasjeet J., Jo T., Maia A., Mathew L., Michelle C., and June H.
The TechTeens are youth leaders who use digital media to develop and communicate science stories for the public.