A recent National Research Council (NRC) report that sharply criticized biometrics relies on data that is several years old and provides no new insights into the use of the technology, the Security Industry Association (SIA) argued in a recently released response.


On Sept. 24, the NRC released Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities, a nearly 200-page report that concluded, among other things, that biometric technology is “inherently fallible” and that “The scientific basis of biometrics … needs strengthening.” In its response, SIA acknowledged that “Every nascent technology has limitations,” but cautioned against interpreting the NRC report as a refutation of biometrics.


“In general, the report outlines the fundamental realities and constraints of biometrics,” SIA stated. “This information is not new to anyone who has been involved in the field … While the report provides useful recommendations for further research, many of its findings are outdated. There have been many significant advances in biometrics technology, testing and standards since the bulk of the NRC’s research for the report concluded in 2006.”


SIA went on to offer a vigorous defense of biometrics.


“Biometrics technology,” SIA stated, “has the potential to change society to the same degree as Alexander Fleming’s penicillin, Henry Ford’s mass production of the automobile or the Wright brothers’ airplane. … Biometric technology can answer the question, ‘Are you who you claim you are?’ Open standards are available and are constantly being enhanced to further develop this technology and provide a more unified approach to verifying an individual’s identity. Biometrics provide an effective countermeasure against fraud and identity theft in applications as diverse as personal access to buildings and computers, banking security, business-to-business transactions and e-commerce.”


SIA concluded its response by asserting that “automatic biometric systems are here to stay because of their ability to tie an undisputable physical attribute to an individual.”