7. Are biometrics a threat to your health?
- Can you tell the state of my health from the iris? Will my eye be damaged from an iris scan? Does eye surgery change the iris?
Iris readers do not use lasers, but they do use near-infrared light. The amount of this light is no more than would be received by walking outside on a sunny day. There have been numerous reports on the safety of iris systems, and the fact that they are used by risk adverse government departments should attests to their safety.
- Do fingerprint sensors carry disease?
Touching a fingerprint sensor is no more dangerous than touching the many other communal surfaces such as door-knobs that we deal with all the time. In some countries after SARS and the threat of bird-flu this could be a legitimate concern in public places, so work is progressing into fingerprint sensors that are completely contactless.
Lots of researches and articles on the web make a comparison between fingerprint and other biometrics technologies (iris scan, facial recognition…) and they explain that one of the strengths of these technologies in comparison to fingerprint is hygiene. This strength however is only a perceived advantage form the users point of view and not a biometric strength.
Because optical fingerprint readers use a light source on the scanner surface, the fingerprints are more visible on a fingerprint sensor than say a on a door-knob or any other commonly used surface. However touching a fingerprint sensor is not more risky than touching a door-knob.
Daniel Munyan, chief scientist at Computer Sciences Corporations (CSC) GSS, has published an article called “Coming Clean on hygiene” about this topic. He explains how cultural sensitivities, hygienic requirements and practical considerations might impact the biometrics industry’s development of verifications systems. You can find this article in the attachment.
There is also an article from Angela Sasse called “Red-Eye Blink, Bendy Shuffle, and the Yuck Factor: A User Experience of Biometric Airport Systems” which talks about that, but very briefly and less relevant.
Solutions: To fight against this fear, companies develop the contactless sensor. With contactless technologies, people are less afraid to give their fingerprint. Daniel Munyan explains in his article some solutions. He takes the example of an immigration control Gate in an Asian country where the glass of the sensor was protected by a plastic cover.