What is biometric data?

Biometric authentication is becoming more and more common, and if you unlock your smartphone with the fingerprint scanner you’re already using biometric technology.

Biometrics is the measurement and analysis of people’s physiological and behavioral characteristics. It is mainly used for identification and granting access to buildings or services, or to digitally sign transactions.  It is based on the idea that everyone has unique physiological attributes, and so can be identified by those.

  • Examples of your physiological characteristics are your fingerprints, DNA, face, veins network, iris, ear shape and even the way you smell.
  • Behavioral features include how you type, how you walk, your voice and body gestures.

It’s gaining popularity because you can prove you are you, without the need to remember usernames and passwords. When you input your biometric data, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition scan, it is turned into computer data (Biometrics minutia) and checked for a match with a securely stored reference. If it finds a match, you are cleared to proceed, whether that is unlocking your phone, confirming a payment or passing through a passport gate.

Biometric technology is more secure than traditional passwords that can be beaten by computers trying over and over again until they find a match. However, unlike passwords, biometrics data can’t be repudiated. Our fingerprints are all around our homes and offices, and our voices can be easily recorded. If/when our biometrics data gets stolen, we can no longer use it, as our fingerprints, voice, and DNA don’t change. That’s why a lot of new uses of biometric technology uses two-factor authentication, where a code is sent to your mobile for example to key in too, providing an extra layer of security to prove who you say you are.

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