What Is Biometrics | 4 mins read

What is Biometrics & How Can it Be Used in the Workplace?

what is biometrics how can it be used in the workplace
Hanh Truong

By Hanh Truong

Advancements in technology are slowly allowing for the replacement of ID cards and passcodes through the use of biometric identifiers, utilizing an individual's unique physical features for identification.

Biometric technologies are already implemented in everyday life, like when using face recognition or a fingerprint to unlock a smartphone. In fact, this technology is becoming so mainstream, that a survey conducted by Visa indicated that more than 65% of American consumers are familiar with biometrics.

Here is an overview into the science behind biometrics and how it can be implemented into the workplace.

What is Biometrics?

Biometrics is an identification system that uses physical features and behavioral characteristics to quickly and accurately verify identity. Organizations use biometric systems to confirm that the person requesting service or access is truly who they say they are.

Biometric authentication has been used by the United States government and law enforcement for years.

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses fingerprints to detect who is entering the country and to provide immigration services.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services require fingerprint imprints for federal applications to authenticate identity. The prints are also utilized to check the criminal and national security background of the applicant.
  • Police collect DNA and fingerprints at crime scenes to find suspects.

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Types of Biometrics

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Fingerprints
Fingerprint recognition is commonly used as a biometric identifier since everyone's fingerprints are different with its own unique set of patterns and grooves.

Face and Eyes
Biometric technology can easily recognize different face structures and features, as well as identify a person's retina and iris.

Various Parts of the Body
Biometrics can essentially analyze different features of the body, including hand geometry, and ears. It can also scan ears and the veins inside a person's palm and fingers.

DNA
DNA, such as saliva and blood, possesses unique identifying characteristics and is typically used by law enforcement.

Signatures
Signatures are another way companies can confirm identity. This is often seen when signing a receipt after making a credit card purchase from a retailer.

Voice
Voice recognition systems are becoming more common with the use of household devices, such as Alexa and Siri. Sometimes, voice is used to verify identity when accessing accounts through the telephone.

Behavior
Aside from physical characteristics, there are ways in which behaviors can authenticate identity. This type of biometrics distinguishes handwriting, typing, and movement, such as how a person uses a mouse or touchscreen and how they walk.

How Biometrics are Used in the Workplace

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A study from Spiceworks found that 62% of businesses in North America and Europe were already using biometric authentication in 2018, and that percentage is expected to increase to 90% moving forward. Information technology professionals believe this form of identification is more secure than traditional forms of authentication, like passwords/PINs and security questions.

A common example of how employers have begun utilizing identification systems in the workplace is through the use of biometric time clocks. Traditionally, workers would have to punch in assigned ID numbers or use swipe cards to clock in and out for work. But with a biometric time clock, they can simply use a fingerprint scanner to do so.

Biometric verification helps businesses secure company and employee information. Workplaces can utilize fingerprints to identify who can access certain accounts, financial information, and confidential paperwork. This helps employers prevent fraudulent activities from hackers and thieves.

In addition, companies integrate biometrics to enhance customer experience. For example, gyms and exclusive clubs may require members to sign-in using fingerprint scanners or facial recognition technology. This helps staff efficiently accept customers into the facility and prevents non-members from sneaking in.

Potential Risks When Using Biometrics

Data collection comes with risks, especially when personal information is stolen, lost, leaked, or abused. Unlike passwords, which can be changed, fingerprints, eye structure, facial features, and DNA cannot easily be altered. In the case that there is a breach of biometric information, there could be permanent damage.

Stolen biometric data can be used to access personal devices, confidential materials, and financial information. Lack of security systems can lead to identity theft and fraud.

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Companies that do use biometrics or plan to, should take extra safety precautions and be transparent with employees and users.

To prevent any security breaches, businesses should use various forms of authentication at the same time. For instance, this is seen when applications, like Instagram, send emails to verify activity or when it sends a code through text for the user to input before signing into his or her account. Using multiple forms of identity verification adds another level of protection to data and information.

In any case that unusual activity is detected, companies need to act quickly to make sure that the fingerprint or face matches the account holder. Whether it is for a time clock or a credit card application, personal data is at stake and methods, like two factor authentication, can promote safety and privacy.

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