University College London professor of human-centered technology Angela Sasse doubts that biometric technologies are mature enough to be implemented in a national ID card system. She argues that such a system could fail without additional research into three key areas–universal access, enrollment, and verification.
The access challenges of biometric technology include acquiring fingerprints from people with arthritis, injuries, and other conditions that can affect readings, while Sasse notes that iris scan technology must advance so that contact lenses, glasses, age, and other factors are not a hindrance.
Social fears must also be addressed. People exhibit reluctance to touching facial scanning equipment partly because of hygiene concerns, which Sasse says could limit the use of such technology in immigration scenarios.
The quirks of human behavior are another variable to be considered. For example, certain environments may discourage people from holding a neutral expression for face scans, either because of boredom or giddiness brought about by alcohol consumption–a typical situation for people in airports.
Sasse says the apparent success and low error rates of technologies such as the SmartGate facial recognition system involved a lot of work in terms of lighting overhauls, staff training, and so on, and she explains that a national ID system would entail a major security problem and massive data management costs.
Sasse says the success of many systems hinges on the interval between the reading and matching of biometric data, noting that a U.K. trial of an iris scanning system failed because the system could only scan five people per minute instead of a dozen, as was hoped for.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the The Engineer (02/21/05) .