Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Biometric ID systems face hurdles

Ziff-Davis has a long article on the difficulties that biometric identification systems are having, especially in the retail industry. The article starts with a particularly interesting anecodote on the problems that Piggly Wiggly has encountered with getting grocery customers to sign up for its Pay-by-Touch fingerprint checkout system.
Bolt [an IT executive at Piggy Wiggly] said she didn't appreciate how emotionally intense some of the opposition was until she visited a store and saw a 70-year-old woman literally throw a Bible at an employee trying to enroll people in the program.

"She told him that God was going to rain hellfire on him and that he was promoting the devil's work," Bolt said, adding that she took that to mean the customer was not interested in enrolling....

The 70-year-old customer was reacting to the concern of some in the religious community that RFID (radio-frequency identification) and biometric programs are similar to a Bible story known as "the mark of the beast." The story from Revelation speaks of limits to sales or purchases "save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Apart from religious objections, biometrics systems are not the panacea that some technophiles believe they are.

Read the whole article to get a view of some of the more significant problems with biometrics.

Related posts
Drawbacks of biometrics
The real problem with password security


Rob Schoening said...

This happened in the 70s when barcode scanners showed up too.

I must admit that I don't really know what problem pay-by-touch is trying to solve. In my experience fingerprint biometrics are a real pain. If you spend too long washing the dishes the night before or get a little bleach on your fingers, good luck.

And if they're trying to solve a fraud problem, they do a lousy job with card-not-present type fraud. As do RFID and Smartcard based solutions, for that matter.

I've often wondered why the banks haven't been able to strike a deal with RSA. If you could embed some variant of one of those SecurID tokens into a credit card, it seems like you could drastically reduce telephone/internet/mail-order fraud. Essentially, just a CVV number that changes periodically.

Actually one of the cleverest idea's i've seen for alternate payment systems was an idea where you have some simple software on your cellphone/PDA that produces a standard barcode that can be scanned using existing technologies.

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