What is Biometrics Biology?

Biometrics is the science of identifying people based on physical traits like their face or eye structure, fingerprints, DNA and gait. It also includes behavioural characteristics like signatures, keystroke patterns and handwriting or the way one interacts with a computer system.

Biometrics technology can help enhance security or improve convenience in many ways, but it cannot in and of itself solve a problem. That is why the discipline requires a systems perspective.


Biometrics is all about “what you are.” Unlike passwords, badges and documents that can be lost or stolen, body measurements like fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, DNA analysis and vein palm scanning provide an irrefutable link between your physical and digital identities.

These characteristics are innate to each individual, so they’re difficult to change — except for major injuries such as loss of fingers or face and invasive surgery. They also tend to remain more stable over an entire life, unlike a person’s gait or the pace of their typing.

The technology was thrust into the spotlight in the early twenty-first century after police at Super Bowl XXXV used facial recognition to search crowds for wanted criminals and after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The technology is divided into two categories: physiological and behavioral. The physiological category measures a characteristic of the human body, such as fingerprints, eyes, hand vein pattern and signature, while the behavioral category monitors a specific measurable human activity, such as walking (gait analysis) or finger contact with a keyboard (keystroke identification). Both types are becoming increasingly common in banking security systems.


Biometrics technology can identify and authenticate a person by comparing physical and behavioral characteristics with stored records. This can include traits such as facial features, fingerprints, palm prints, eye structures (irises or retinas), heartbeat and gait.

Some biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints and the trace of a person’s voice, are relatively stable over time. Others, such as a face or the structure of a hand, can change with age, injury or illness.

Regardless of the type of biometric identifier, there are concerns about privacy. Any system that collects and stores this data has the potential to breach a person’s privacy, and may raise questions about whether it is in line with a free and democratic society. The federal government regulates how personal information is collected, used and disclosed through the Privacy Act. Private sector organizations may be subject to similar legislation such as PIPEDA. This could limit the use of some types of biometrics. For example, some people have concerns about being tracked through their online activities.


Biometrics refers to the measurement of physical and behavioral characteristics that are unique to each person. These traits can be used to identify people and can include facial features, voice patterns, hand geometry, palm vein patterns, eye structures (iris or retina), gait, and DNA analysis.

Biometric technology seeks to make hacking and gaining unauthorized access to computer systems more difficult by using physical identifiers that can’t be stolen or lost. It can also raise privacy concerns by requiring people to provide their traits.

These characteristics have the potential to be collected covertly, linked across applications and databases and used for purposes other than their original intended purpose. For example, fingerprints can be used to link a person’s identity with their bank accounts and credit cards. They can also be used to verify a signature, even for transactions that are not related to crime investigations. For these reasons, biometrics should be evaluated from a systems perspective.


Biometrics technology was thrust into the spotlight after two events in the early-twenty-first century: the Super Bowl XXXV security breach and the terrorist attacks of September 11. It promised to solve a number of different problems, from unlocking a smartphone to gaining access to a secure facility. But biometrics systems can be complex and have unforeseen operational limitations.

Physiological biometrics, such as iris or retina scanning and fingerprint identification systems, identify features that are unique to each individual. These traits are difficult to fake or fool and typically remain the same over time.

But some people may feel that biometrics technology can be used to violate their privacy. This is especially a concern for behavioural biometrics, such as the unique way that each person types on a keyboard or walks. These behavioral characteristics can be collected and cross-matched with other data, including information gathered for entirely different purposes. This raises privacy concerns and is an area of active research.

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