Report Cites ‘Inherent Fallibility’ Of Biometrics For Solving Crimes


The “biometric” recognition technologies like fingerprints and eye scans that solve so many crimes on TV cop shows are “inherently fallible,” according to a blue-ribbon panel report cited by USA Today. The report was released by the National Research Council. “A lot of things possible on a TV series just don’t work that way in real life,” says panel member Bob Blakley of Gartner, a computer security firm in Stamford, Conn. “While there are lots of good uses for biometric recognition, there are lots of ways to create systems that waste time, cost too much and don’t work very well.”

Federal agencies such as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are funding research in improved biometric screening, but the report cautions they’re not doing basic research into whether the physical characteristics involved are truly reliable or how they change with aging, disease, stress or other factors. None look stable across all situations, the report says. Deployment of biometric screening devices at airports, borders or elsewhere without understanding the biology or the population being screened will lead to long lines, false positives and missed opportunities to catch criminals or terrorists, the report says.

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