Iris Recognition Delivers Superior Identity Authentication While Protecting Personal Privacy

There has been much public discussion and outcry surrounding the use of biometrics for security and law enforcement applications. On one hand, biometrics technology delivers a proven means of improving security unlike conventional access and identity credentials. Yet there are many widespread misconceptions regarding personal privacy and the use of biometrics.

The grass roots issue is that there are numerous public and private databases that contain images of individuals’ faces including state DMV driver license databases. This also includes corporate badging systems, law enforcement and corrections mug shots, community and private criminal/offender watch lists, and so on. Perhaps more intriguing is the use of facial images on social media that are in the public domain.

These images are used effectively with facial recognition software to identify and even locate known or wanted persons. Given rising crime rates driven by the pandemic and numerous other social issues, anything that helps prevent or resolve crimes should be perceived as a good thing, but the perception that biometrics present a threat to personal privacy persist with large support from privacy advocates in both the public and private sectors.

However, not all biometrics are the same, and it is possible to achieve superior personal identity authentication while protecting personal privacy using iris recognition biometrics.

Iris recognition compares the unique characteristics of one or both eyes to identify and authenticate a person’s identity. It is widely recognized as being superior to most other forms of biometrics with almost no false positives. The superior identification properties of iris recognition is exemplified even when used with identical twins, whose faces may not be distinguished using face recognition.

As a result, iris recognition biometric solutions are today are used for myriad applications where personal identity management is critical for a wide range of physical security, workforce management and health safety applications. Enrollment is fast and easy, and iris databases do not contain any facial images that can be easily matched using conventional video systems or image resources. User consent is required for enrollment and for identification/authentication processes.

In addition to its personal privacy benefits, advantages of iris recognition biometric solutions include:

Convenient, ease of use. Proximity sensors, mirror-assisted alignment functionality, audio auto-positioning prompts, automated image capture, and visual and audio authentication decision-cueing contribute to an intuitive user experience, requiring little to no effort.

The smallest outlier population. Few people cannot use iris recognition technology, and most individuals have at least one eye. Even blind persons have used iris recognition successfully.

Long-term stability. The human iris remains constant after about a year from birth barring damage or disease over time. Unlike other forms of biometrics, an enrolled person may require infrequent re-enrollment.

Ideal for large databases. Iris recognition works in the 1-n or exhaustive search mode, making it ideal for large user groups, such as a National Documentation application as used in Qatar.

Unmatched search speeds. The one-to-many search mode is unmatched by any other technology, and is limited not by database size, but by hardware selected for server management.

Versatile for one-to-many, one-to-one applications. Iris recognition works well in 1-1 matching, or verification mode, making the technology ideal for use in multifactor authentication environments where PINs, or tokens like prox or smartcards are used. In a token environment, many privacy issues related to biometric database management are moot, as the user retains control of biometric data.

Superior anti-spoofing. Encrypted iris recognition templates cannot be re-engineered, or reconstituted to prevent identity theft.

Personal privacy protection is an on-going debate that has a direct influence on the implementation of advanced biometrics for security, safety, financial transactions, and workforce management applications. Advanced iris recognition biometric solutions deliver the highest levels of personal identification and authentication accuracy while protecting individuals’ personal identities for myriad applications in the public and private sectors.

About the Author

Mohammed Murad is vice president of global development and sales for Iris ID.

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