biometrics, in security and personal identification, the electronic verification of individuals using biological traits, such as iris or retinal scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition, and the technology used in verification. The main operations involved in a biometric system are called enrollment and test; during enrollment an individual's biometric information is collected and stored, while during test the incoming information is compared against the version stored during enrollment. A functioning system typically answers three questions: Is the person who he or she claims to be (verification)? Who is the person (identification)? Is there anything special about the person, for example, is he or she allowed access to a restricted area (screening)? The increasing use of biometric systems in both industrial (e.g., attendance tracking) and security (e.g., airport check-in) environments has raised privacy concerns. Additionally, reports of commercially available units being compromised have raised security issues, and medical issues, such as retinal scanners transmitting infections, also exist. Nonetheless, the early 21st cent. has seen an increasing use of the technology in the United States and Great Britain in schools, especially as replacements for library cards and meal tickets, and in a number of nations in passports and identification cards.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.