Biometrics and Medical Concerns

User acceptance of biometric systems is directly correlated with the medical implications of these systems.

The medical implications can be divided into two categories: direct medical implication (DMI) and indirect medical implication (IMI). The former refers to the potential risk to the human body arising from the use of biometric devices and the latter refers to the ethical risk arising from the violation of the user’s privacy caused by the revelation of private medical data. Both types of implications can be seen as fuzzy quantifications of risk. DMI refer to physical, measurable potential damaging effects whereas IMI refer to the possibility of extracting medical information.

DMI: Biometric techniques rely on the measure of physicalbehavioural characteristics of an individual. In some circumstances, the interaction of physical characteristics with a biometric sensor may give rise to some concerns regarding potential health risks. Two potential risks:

– The biometric usersubject performs an action on the biometrics machine (e.g. presents the biometric characteristic to the sensor or in the case of fingerprint a scanner is employed). A risk of contamination may occur when the body touches a surface handled previously by other users. The real risk may be minimal especially when compared to similar everyday actions such as touching doorknobs, public telephone, etc, but the perceived risk may have a negative impact on public acceptance. Regular cleaning of the surface of the sensor or even decontamination through ultraviolet light can minimise concerns.

– The 2nd potential risk relates to technologies that use radiation to assist acquisition such as retinal scanning which use infrared light. There is a fear that this radiation could be damaging to the eyes. Retinal scanning could cause thermal injury on the back of the eye. Data from iris recognition equipment manufacturers show no evidence that iris systems could pose a risk. The physical characteristics employed in biometrics are generally exposed to radiation for a very short period of time. Generally biometric sensors are deployed with a certification of compliance with safety standards.

IMI: This refers to the possibility of biometric data revealing sensitive health information leading to social and ethical concerns. For example, retinal scanning could have serious implications as it may enable detection of a subject’s vascular dysfunction. There are also concerns that in the future, face recognition may be used to detect expressions and thus emotional conditions.

Dr Risco Mutelo is a Namibian who currently works for the Bank of America stationed in London where he studied Biometrics Engineering at New Castle University in the United Kingdom.

Source : New Era