What Is Biometrics And Why Collecting Biometrics Data Is Risky

Donovan Blaylock II
May 06, 2020

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The use of biometric data for security and privacy is an old idea in a new age wrapper. Examples of biometric security exist in popular media dating back to the 1960s, but they are often limited to things like iris or fingerprint scanning.

Today, biometric data is far more diverse and increasingly available. If you have a new phone or computer, you may even carry around a biometric security device with you.

That’s why understanding the risks associated with biometric data is so important.

What is biometrics and what could go wrong if we’re not careful with the data? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Biometrics? An Expanded Definition

Roughly speaking, biometric data refers to the unique human characteristics used to differentiate an individual person. These characteristics can be physical, like fingerprints and facial patterns. However, they can also be behaviors, like a typing cadence.

There are ten commonly used types of biometrics in today’s applications. They include:

  • Fingerprints
  • Photo and video
  • Voice
  • Facial recognition
  • DNA
  • Signature
  • Typing patterns
  • Navigation patterns
  • Engagement patterns
  • Physical movements

These types of data offer identification services confidence while also making systems frictionless. For example, instead of requiring multiple passwords, an ID card swipe, and either two-factor or third-party verification, a facial recognition scanner can identify the person in one swift move.

Biometrics are popular for this reason. According to a survey produced by Visa, 65% of Americans are familiar with biometrics and 86% of consumers are interested in using them to protect their payments. 

It’s not hard to see why this kind of security is taking over: the average person’s password hygiene is poor, and passwords are often shared and easy to leak. Biometrics are unique to each individual and hard to share.

What Are The Risks Associated With Biometrics?

Biometric data isn’t a risk-free answer to the world’s most pressing privacy and security problems. The practice itself comes with serious security risks, and these impact the rights and freedoms of each individual person who hands over their biometric data.

It’s not hard to see the risk: if a password is compromised, you can change it. If your iris scan is stolen, then it’s no longer useful to you ever again. The risk is particularly huge with the use of DNA scanning. Once someone’s DNA enters a database, whoever accesses it can reach a stunning amount of personal information.

If breached, those whose data is affected could face identity theft, fraud, and the use of their data in terrorism.

Another issue lies in the legislation of the use of biometric data. Protection for this data is covered by the European Union’s GDPR legislation, but only three states in the U.S. have laws that protect biometric data.

Essentially, if you’re going to use biometric data, you need to put as much effort into protecting that data as you do the enterprise data you’re trying to secure.

Are You Taking The Right Steps To Secure Your Company?

What is biometrics? It’s a form of data that includes unique identifying human characteristics, including physical and behavioral characteristics. Biometric data is very much a part of today’s security landscape, but it’s important to know the risks of using this type of data.

If you’re going to use biometric data, you need to treat it with the appropriate level of security.

Are you looking for the right security solutions for your organization? Get in touch for a free demo to see how we can be your security partner.

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