Introduction to Biometric Recognition

A wide variety of systems require reliable personal recognition schemes to either confirm or determine the identity of an individual requesting their services. The purpose of such schemes is to ensure that the rendered services are accessed only by a legitimate user, and not anyone else. Examples of such applications include secure access to buildings, computer systems, laptops, cellular phones and ATMs. In the absence of robust personal recognition schemes, these systems are vulnerable to the wiles of an impostor. Biometric recognition, or simply biometrics, refers to the automatic recognition of individuals based on their physiological and/or behavioral characteristics. By using biometrics it is possible to confirm or establish an individual’s identity based on “who she is”, rather than by “what she possesses” (e.g., an ID card) or “what she remembers” (e.g., a password). In this paper, we give a brief overview of the field of biometrics and summarize some of its advantages, disadvantages, strengths, limitations, and related privacy concerns.

Humans have used body characteristics such as face, voice, gait, etc. for thousands of years to recognize each other. Alphonse Bertillon, chief of the criminal identification division of the police department in Paris, developed and then practiced the idea of using a number of body measurements to identify criminals in the mid 19th century. Just as his idea was gaining popularity, it was obscured by a far more significant and practical discovery of the distinctiveness of the human fingerprints in the late 19 th century. Soon after this discovery, many major law enforcement departments embraced the idea of first “booking” the fingerprints of criminals and storing it in a database (actually, a card file). Later, the leftover (typically, fragmentary) fingerprints (commonly referred to as latents) at the scene of crime could be “lifted” and matched with fingerprints in the database to determine the identity of the criminals. Although biometrics emerged from its extensive use in law enforcement to identify criminals (e.g., illegal aliens, security clearance for employees for sensitive jobs, fatherhood determination, forensics, positive identification of convicts and prisoners), it is being increasingly used today to establish person recognition in a large number of civilian applications.
What biological measurements qualify to be a biometric? Any human physiological and/or
behavioral characteristic can be used as a biometric characteristic as long as it satisfies the
following requirements:
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