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BIOMETRICS IS A FRIEND OR A FOE?

Dr.Y.Bindu Madhavi,


Every Human being on the earth has a unique feature distinct and different from the other human being. Syntactically, left part and right part of the human anatomy have its own variations and does not tally with each other. These specific characters of each human being make him unique. In good olden days, there was no technology to find out these features or characters of humans. These unique qualities now became a tool to identify accurately.

Now a day right from the age of a young child attending the school to the age of old man receiving pension stage, in every walk of life, each one of us is using any one of our unique physical features for our identification. These unique physical features are called Biometrics. There are various types of biometric data which include finger prints, voice prints, facial recognition, retina or iris scans, gait etc. However, there are even other kinds of technologies developed in sciences and technology such as electrocardiographic rhythms and body odour.


The evolution of the Biometrics

The term “biometrics” is derived from the Greek words “bio” (life) and “metrics” (to measure). It is a fact that formal identification is a prerequisite for development in the modern world. The concept and word biometrics is the technical term for body measurements and calculations. It refers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometrics authentication is used in computer science as a form of identification for access or control[1]. This technology also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance[2].


Sources from ancient period reveal that the human race has evolved in various stages from their early existence in small primitive societies where every person in the community is physically acquainted with each other. In the present complex society each one has became a global citizen and intertwined with other people and places irrespective of physical proximity. The question of authentication and identification of a person has become a challenging task now. In this context accurate identification has become very important issue for identification of persons.


A biometric system is a pattern recognition either physiological or behavioural characteristic which person possesses. These technologies are increasingly being used for surveillance purposes. The broad range of techniques can be used in different domains, ranging from state security to the comfort of individuals. The developing world has attracted much attention and interest from the biometric technology industry, which views these countries as an area of growth for the industry.


Biometric authentication is the process of comparing data for the person's characteristics to that person's biometric "template" in order to determine resemblance. Biometrics allows a person to be identified and authenticated based on a set of recognizable and verifiable data, which are unique and specific to them. The reference model is first stored in a database or a secure portable element like a smart card. The same data compared to the person's biometric data to be authenticated. The aim is to capture an item of biometric data from this person. It can be a photo of their face, a record of their voice, or an image of their fingerprint then the data will compared to with other persons database.


In 1936 the United States has introduced social security number (SSN) to facilitate social security for individuals. Gradually smartcard/RFID emerged in the advanced security systems. In United States, Social Security Number (SSN) was in demand till 2006 because of its wide spread usage, but the problem started there onwards due to identity thefts with Social Security Number. In order to overcome these problems, the United States has shifted to a unique identification (UID) number with biometric. The UID number is a random number, where guessing a number is virtually impossible. UID with biometrics will ensure uniqueness with a high degree of accuracy covering a wide range of population.


The Government of India (GOI) has constituted the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) to provide every resident with a unique identification number. UID number is a 12 digit random number, serves as a proof of identity and address, anywhere in India and will remain valid for life. UID also referred as Aadhaar. The Indian government issued directions for linking Aadhaar number for many citizen services such as banking, mobile phone, gas connections etc, the government is committed to register UID for whole population in the country.


Biometric data - challenges

In spite of substantial effort, however there remain unresolved questions about the effectiveness, management of systems for biometric recognition, as well as the appropriateness and societal impact of their use. Moreover, the general public has been exposed to biometrics largely as high-technology gadgets in spy thrillers or as fear instilling instruments of state or corporate surveillance in speculative fiction. Therefore, naturally and unsurprisingly, biometric technologies raise privacy issues of human beings all over the world. One cannot be certain for which purpose such surveillance is specifically applied. Depending on the nature and usage of a given biometric technology, there is a great potential for violation of the constitutionally guaranteed human rights, specifically the right to privacy. The application and using biometric technology to identify and monitor people raises has an inherent tension with privacy interests of an individual.


Due to overwhelming and ever increasing rate of adoption of biometrics, the issues associated with performance of biometric systems, immunity against spoofing attacks, and security of biometric data have become major areas of concern that need to be addressed. Biometrics makes use of human anatomical or behavioural patterns; these patterns can be fabricated by criminals, and can be presented to a biometric system to bypass the security. Risk factors associated with the use of biometric identification can also be dependent on the biometric modality employed. Thus, their applications have its own negative impact on the people of a given country. Therefore, it is essential to understand the security risks of biometric technologies in order to develop relevant policy and legislative frameworks to minimise the potential negative impact on individuals and the society at large.


Biometrics and Right to Privacy

Numerous legal and moral philosophers have suggested that privacy is valued because it satisfies a number of primary human needs. The right to privacy is the hallmark of a cultured existence, as in the words of Louise Brandeis, J “the right most valued by civilized men”[3]

At the international level, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rilghts for which India is a signatory and more recently, the European Convention of Human Rights recognizes this right. Privacy as a concept involves what privacy entails and how it is to be valued. Privacy as a right involves the extent to which privacy is (and should be legally protected). “The law does not determine what privacy is, but only what situations of privacy will be afforded legal protection.[4]” However, the common characteristics underlying this are its being available against the state, as is the case with other human rights.


The Indian Constitution, in comparison, fails to expressly recognize the Right to Privacy. Some scholars contend that the whole notion of privacy has referred to the Right to Privacy as the absence of unauthorized interference with a person’s seclusion of himself or his property from the public. Judicial activism has brought the Right to Privacy within the realm of Fundamental Rights. Article 141 of the Constitution states that “the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India.” Therefore, the decisions of The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India become the Law of the Land. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has come to the rescue of common citizen, time and again by construing “right to privacy” as a part of the Fundamental Right to “protection of life and personal liberty” under Article 21 of the Constitution, which states “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law”. In the context of personal liberty, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed “those who feel called upon to deprive other persons of their personal liberty in the discharge of what they conceive to be their duty must strictly and scrupulously observe the forms and rules of the law.”


The rights to privacy and fair information practices are part of the legal framework of most countries and come into play when dealing with any identification system like the biometrics technologies. Legal limitations may also exist with these systems depending on the jurisdiction, prohibitions on unlawful search and seizure. For example, obtaining a biometric record of an individual, particularly from a secondary source such as his or her employer, in the course of an investigation, could be seen as “search.”


Many a times, individuals may feel that obtaining a biometric involuntarily, even if directly obtained from an individual, be viewed as forced self-incrimination. The parameters of these systems, such as where the information is obtained from those convicted of a particular set of crimes, those convicted of all crimes, or those only charged with a crime, will likely determine how the system is viewed in the context of due process protections of decency and fair play. The use of biometrics present with a second party database as evidence has posed challenges to the right against self incrimination and right to privacy.


The historic reaction to biometrics on the part of most privacy advocates is to view it as a threat to privacy. There are cultural objections raised where biometrics are seen as a loss of dignity, stigmatizing those from whom the biometric is collected. Religious objections may be raised. There are fears of physical invasiveness either directly in the case of DNA collection or retinal scan. Finally there are objections on the ground of loss of autonomy if the use of biometrics is so wide spread as to enter the everyday conduct of one’s life. On the other hand, biometrics are defended as beneficial to privacy by securely protecting one’s identity and access to one’s own information.


As with all technologies, biometric technologies themselves are privacy neutral. It is how these technologies are used and how we set controls on their use that will answer the question — Biometrics is a Friend or a Foe?


[1] In the fields of physical security and information security, access control is the selective restriction of access to a place or other resource [2] Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior, activities, or other changing information for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting people [3] Olmstead v United States,277 U.S. 438, 478

_______________________________________________________________________

Dr.Y.Bindu Madhavi,

IV Addl.Chief Metropolitan Magistrate,

Vijayawada.

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kamalakara reddy
kamalakara reddy
Feb 04, 2021

Ma'am great effort. Keep it up

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