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What is biometric data?

Biometrics are at the cutting edge of technology. Not only does biometric data add great convenience for customers who no longer need to remember complex passwords, but this data also provides greater levels of security.

July 21st, 2022

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Biometrics is a way of measuring a person’s physical characteristics. By using a piece of biometric data such as a fingerprint or a facial scan, an individual’s identity can be verified accurately in a matter of seconds. 

The way biometric verification works is simple. A database stores authentic data, which a business can then compare to an individual user’s physical traits.

If you own a smartphone like an iPhone, then you’ll already be using your biometric data for verification purposes on a daily basis. Perhaps without realizing it. This is because, when your iPhone scans your face before it unlocks, or when you use your fingerprint for Apple Pay, you’re using two different forms of biometric identification. Your voice is even used to identify you when you ask Siri a question.

Biometrics are at the cutting edge of technology. Not only does biometric data add great convenience for customers who no longer need to remember complex passwords, but this data also provides greater levels of security.

What is biometric data used for?

So, we know what biometric data is. But what is biometric data used for on a day-to-day basis?

Today, biometric data is used for a variety of applications. We’ve already covered how often smartphone owners use their biometric data. However, the application of biometrics extends well beyond this space. 

For example, key biometric identifiers are used in e-passports. This means users can scan their passports at airport security instead of queuing and waiting for a human to inspect them manually. 

Similarly, biometric data is commonly used by the police. By collecting biometric data, officers can quickly get information regarding a number of aspects of a crime, from the gait of the assailant to the identity of the victim.

What types of biometric data are there?

Biometric data includes both physiological traits like fingerprints and behavioral characteristics, such as the unique way somebody walks or uses a keyboard. To be useful, biometric data must be unique, permanent, and collectible.

Biometric data types vary, and new biometric verification methods are continually emerging. However, here are four of the most common.

  1. Facial recognition

Pieces of facial recognition software, such as our biometric authentication solution, measure the geometry of a user’s face. This involves the collection of a number of data points, such as the distance between the eyes, or the distance from a user’s chin to their forehead.

Facial biometrics are gathered using either photos or videos. The user’s data is then stored in the system. Whenever a user wants to access the system again, they’re asked to snap a selfie. This selfie is then compared with all faces in the database, so that a match can be found. 

Biometric checking services are used for three key purposes:

  • Monitoring high-risk customers
  • Remote employee verification
  • Resetting credentials

Fingerprint recognition

Fingerprint recognition is the most popular and most developed biometric authentication solution in the world. It’s also one of the oldest and has been used in some form since the 1800s.

Once a user’s fingerprint has been scanned and analyzed, it is saved as a template in the system. Then, when a user attempts to access the service, their fingerprint is compared to all the samples in the system in order to find a match.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition, also known as voice biometrics, works because everyone’s voice is unique and distinguishable. After all, more than 70 different body parts contribute to how we speak.

With voice biometrics, a user is asked to say certain words or phrases. These are then saved as voice prints. Each time the user then attempts to access the service, a new speech sample is captured and is compared against the original voice prints. If the speech templates match, a user is allowed to access the service.

Behavioral characteristics

Several behavioral characteristics, such as the way you swipe and scroll, or the way you hold your phone, can also be used to identify you. Behavioral biometrics involves analyzing a user’s digital, physical, and cognitive behavior to distinguish between cybercriminal activity and legitimate customers.

During the authentication process, a user’s biometric data is gathered and encrypted. Software is then used to select points of data as match points. These are then translated into numeric values. 

When a user attempts to access a service or make a purchase, their biometric input is compared with the stored database value. If there’s a match, authentication is approved.

Are biometric data methods safe?

Although biometric data is widely considered to be safe, some people do have concerns over its use. For example, any collection of data could eventually get hacked, and biometric data is an especially attractive target for hackers. Thankfully, biometric data tends to be secured on a stronger level than other forms of data, so this risk remains minimal as long as organizations employ rigorous data security measures.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that you can reset passwords and change security questions, but you cannot alter your fingerprint or your speech. Due to this, you should take steps to keep your biometric data safe and ensure it does not fall into the hands of hackers. 

For example, you should continue to set strong passwords wherever possible and ensure that any software you’re using is up-to-date. On top of this, if you’re concerned about how a website or service provider may use your data, then you may be able to opt out of providing it. For example, you can disable facial recognition in your Facebook settings.

How reliable are biometrics?

According to studies, biometric security methods are incredibly reliable and safe. Exactly how reliable each method is varies slightly depending on the systems used. However, fingerprint biometrics is thought to be more than 99% accurate. Similarly, our biometric authentication solution is 99.9% accurate. 

When you add that biometric data is incredibly hard to steal and cannot be forgotten, it’s clear that biometric data is safe, secure, and a superior option to traditional authentication methods, such as passwords and security questions.

Biometric data and privacy laws

Virtually no legal provisions in the world are specific to biometric data protection. Instead, legal texts often rely on provisions relating to personal data protection and privacy in the broad sense.

That said, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for European Member States does address biometric data. This means that 28 countries (including the UK) have regulations in place.

Unfortunately, in the US, there is no single federal law regulating the collection and use of biometric data. But, individual states like Washington, Illinois, Texas, California, New York State, and Virginia do have laws in place. 

Sadly though, overall the US has a patchwork system of laws and regulations that sometimes overlap or contradict one another.

What is the future of biometric data?

Looking to the future, it’s clear that more and more businesses will look to harness the security and convenience of biometric data. In fact, some researchers predict that by 2025, the use of facial recognition for making secure payments is likely to double.

But, although biometric data will help revolutionize the payment industry in years to come, it will also have a big impact on other areas of our lives. For example, the technology can be used to help assist:

  • Checkout-free shopping
  • Multimodal authentication
  • A sharing economy

All of these factors are contributing to the rapid growth of the biometrics market. As a result, Global Markets Insights estimates that the global market will be worth more than $50 billion by 2024.

As the rollout of online and cloud-based verification platforms increases, the sector will also become further democratized and accessible. This means that smaller enterprises and ambitious start-ups will find the technology just as affordable as big businesses with deep pockets. This is great news for customers and users too, because these organizations need the benefits of security, convenience, and protection just as much as their larger counterparts do.

Speak with the biometric verification experts at Veriff

At Veriff, we’re experts in biometric verification. This is why we developed our biometric authentication solution, an AI-powered reverification tool that utilizes some of the best parts of our existing identity verification technology. With the help of our biometric checking service, you can re-verify users in around 1 second, with 99.9% accuracy.

If you’re interested in learning more about biometric data and authentication, then get in touch with our experts. We’d love to show you exactly how our biometric checking service can help your business. Book a personalized demo with our experts today. 

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