Read out Biometry is the magic word that promises more security. But privacy advocates have concerns. Withdraw money without a PIN, access control to high-security areas without security guards - more and more often physical features serve as a password. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, hand-held scanners were used as access control for sensitive buildings, and the US Immigration Department uses privileged travelers at some US airports to use the same technology. Disneyland requires an electronic fingerprint before entering the park. So much security has a name: biometrics. "Verification by possession" (chip card) and "verification by knowledge" (secret number) are replaced by "verification by physiological and behavioral characteristics, " as the experts put it. The advantages are obvious: A chip card can be lost or stolen, a secret number can be forgotten or crack - but fingerprint, iris, face or voice you always have with you. Most body features are so individual that they can be used to uniquely identify people, and besides, they are almost impossible to fake. The US company IriScan, for example, estimates that the probability of finding two identical iris patterns is 1 in 10 to 52 - and thus unimaginably lower than the probability of finding two identical fingerprints. Another problem is the computing time. Once millions of bank customers use fingerprints to withdraw money, it takes hours for the database to search for the appropriate comparison print. "In the future, biometrics will therefore be combined with a smart card, " assures Dr. med. Manfred Bromba, Head of Biometrics Development at Siemens. This could look like this: The person puts the card in the machine and identifies himself as a customer. Only then does the cover of the fingerprint sensor open in order to protect it from vandalism. The customer puts his finger on the sensor, and this compares the pattern with the record, which is encrypted on the card and therefore does not need to be queried through a database. The fingerprint is therefore used as a replacement for the PIN. A theft of the card is not worthwhile because the matching fingerprint is missing.
The vision of George Orwell's big brother and his total surveillance state is too close. With fingerprint sensors in door handles, hidden video cameras with iris recognition or mini-labs in everyday objects that determine the genetic make-up of skin cells, the state and the economy would always know where we are and what we are doing. Axel Munde of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) mentions other possibilities: "With a Retinascanner could be determined whether someone had drunk too much last night, and a DNA analysis could insurances give information about hereditary diseases, " he warns.
However, it is not always fears of privacy that a biometric test is not accepted by subjects. Thus, the network of blood vessels on the retina of the eye is as individual as a fingerprint. But Retinascanner shine in the eye, which nobody finds particularly pleasant. The fingerprint method is accepted without complaint on the mobile phone, but at the ATM, the idea of a police check could hamper customers. Most likely to accept test methods that people are used to - especially facial recognition. Whether you show your face to the gatekeeper or a video camera, ultimately does not matter. The same applies to the recognition of signatures: pressure-sensitive writing tablets, which analyze in particular the movement of the hand and the speed of writing, are only really scary for fraudsters.
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