What are the advantages & disadvantages of biometric identification?

Written by john grossman
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What are the advantages & disadvantages of biometric identification?
Some biometric scanners use fingerprints to perform user identification. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Many businesses or organisations now use biometric identification in order to secure their premises or sensitive information. There are many types of biometric scanners. Some of them perform iris scans, while others scan users' fingerprints, the shape of their hands or even the way they type on a keyboard. While biometric identification is more secure than more traditional means, it also has certain disadvantages.

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Biometric identification is a technique which uses the unique behavioural or physical features of an individual in order to identify him. For example, when a biometric device scans fingerprints, it then compares it with every authorised user's fingerprints in its database, the way an investigator might compare fingerprints. If the scanned fingerprints match an authorised user's, that person is then granted access to the device. But biometric identification is not only restricted to physical features. Some behavioural patters, such as speech or the way a person types on a keyboard, can also be analysed.


Biometric identification devices are typically installed on the doors of secure locations. They allow authorised personnel to enter the premises while denying entry to unauthorised individuals. There are also other uses for biometric identification. For example, some companies use biometrics to secure their computer network, while some schools use fingerprint scanners in order to control students' attendance.


Physical and behavioural features are much more difficult to forge than traditional identification methods. Also, while a criminal might be able to obtain a password illegally, getting a user's fingerprints would be much more complicated. In addition, contrary to traditional ID cards or badges, you can't actually lose physical features, making maintenance more cost efficient for the business or organisation, and the technology more convenient for users.


Biometric identification machines are traditionally more expensive to buy than traditional ones. In addition, some users may reject biometrics as a whole, seeing it as an invasion of privacy. Also, biometric identification machines are not always entirely accurate. For example, an individual with a cold may not be able to identify himself using a voice identification device, and people who gain or lose weight may suddenly lose access to a place protected by a system analysing facial features.

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