Essay Example on Biometric Systems: Privacy, Crime, and Fraud

Published: 2019-10-02
Essay Example on Biometric Systems: Privacy, Crime, and Fraud
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Criminal law Information technologies Security
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1759 words
15 min read

The inception of the digital age has brought about a myriad of challenges and benefits as far as privacy, crime, and fraud are concerned. Notably, the internet of things has enabled people to create, share and access valuable data on the go creating vulnerabilities as far as the security of such data is concerned. Further, the digital era has seen the digitization of data from all aspects of society such as libraries, voting records, identification cards, and public records among others. Although this digitization has increased accessibility, and convenience, it has created security concerns. Biometric systems refer to the collection of individual data such as voice, iris, fingerprints, retina, hand geometry, among other things. These characteristics are usually stored in a database that is centralized where the criminals can be identified. As such, biometric systems have been viewed as the answer to these security challenges. Consequently, biometric systems such as fingerprint scanners, eye scanners, speech recognition, typing recognition, and facial have been widely applied in everyday situations as a security measure. However, as much as biometric systems enforce security they raise other issues such as privacy breach and susceptibility to security breaches. This essay aims to discuss and elucidate on issues raised by the implementation of biometric systems as far as privacy, crime, and fraud are concerned (Millett and Pato, 2010, p.5-37).

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How Biometric Affects Privacy

Currently, the numbers of biometric systems are emerging, and this has increased the risks of invading privacy. Biometric technology has raised alarm in the protection of individual privacy. Numerous authors have discussed the good side and the bad aspect of the effect of biometrics on privacy.

Jain et al,(2004, P.937), said that biometric is usually considered one of the most efficient measures of enhancing security. The police often use it as an identification and verification source against the criminals. Fingerprints are perceived to be one of the most common ways of identifying criminals. The use of fingerprints was introduced in 1879. Alphonse Bertillon, a French police officer, stated that people could be determined by measuring the various parts of the body and apart from the use of fingerprints, other biometrics such as voice, iris, and retina can be employed. When this information is put together, it creates a personal profile of a person (Jain et al., 2004, P.937).

Despite these advantages, it has been known to invade the privacy of individuals. The fourth amendment of the United States that the US citizens have the right to privacy and this should not be infringed. However, the use of biometric have compromised security due to their nature of storing personal information, and this is against what is stated in the constitution. Biometric technologies such as Smartphones invade privacy because the government can access the text messages, the call logs and the places visited by an individual. The extensive utilization of biometrics has caused privacy issues where many organizations are holding a lot of information about individuals that may not be necessary. People cannot dictate the kind of information that will be convened on the databases

For the negative aspects, biometrics collects a lot of personal information that is usually stored in a database. With this information, a person can be tracked. Additionally, one can also observe what an individual is doing. People can use biometrics to track an individuals correct location and the previous one(Ratha et al., 2011, P. 615). When organizations have peoples information, some people keep on following others with CCTV cameras. For example, in the United Kingdom, there are more than 4.2 million CCTV camera and each is usually caught on camera for more than 300 times in a day. This affects the privacy of an individual because the images that are captured on the c are stored in the database and the police can use the images to solve crimes. Ones medical records can be traced and exposed without the individuals permission. Such records should only be available when they are needed most and should not be disclosed without the authorization from the person. Exposing the record interferes with the right to anonymity. When people use debit and credit cards to purchase products, they may be required to give fingerprints. Thus, the sort code and the account number will be retained in the database. When this information is leaked, ones identification and the card details will also be leaked. Biometrics can also be cut off and used to access someones data although this does not happen more often. Therefore, this can open doors to crimes in the world.

Biometrics and crime

Biometrics has undoubtedly made the detection and prevention of crime easier for law enforcement agencies. Facial recognition, fingerprint identification, and voice recognition systems are implemented in almost all law enforcement agencies to identify perpetrators positively. Other biometric systems that are used in crime fighting include iris scans, palm prints, and vein patterns. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks the world over, these biometric systems have been crucial in identifying would be terrorist and criminals at airports and other susceptible locations. Additionally, they have been useful in positively identifying international criminals who even go to extreme lengths of undergoing plastic surgery to conceal their identity. As of 2013, Interpol had made more than 1000 positive identifications of wanted fugitives using iris and fingerprint scanners at airport terminals (, 2016). However, this figure is well below the number of criminals who are put behind bars in the United States with the help of biometric systems. Further, using biometric systems has reduced the incidence of crimes as would be perpetrators are discouraged from committing a crime since they can be identified using surveillance cameras and facial recognition systems. They also lack access and the opportunity to commit criminal acts in places that require biometric data to access.

As much as biometric systems have helped curtail crime, they have also increased crime in some instances. Biometric systems are often implemented in areas that require high security due to their sensitive nature. Consequently, criminals are more incentivized to attack places that have implemented these systems with the hope that they hold precious assets. Research carried out by a security provider in the United States revealed that homes that have implemented some form of a biometric security system are twice more likely to be the target of planned burglaries and home invasions (Chianis, 2014). This can be attributed to the perception that biometric systems are implemented to safeguard valuable information or material. As such, criminals are attracted to these homes with the hope of striking it big. However, the research also revealed that homes with biometric systems are also safer as they can withstand forced entry attacks as opposed to those with wired and wireless security systems.

Biometrics and fraud

Fraud entails the use of deception aimed at gaining financially from a given situation. Fraud comes in many forms that include but not limited to credit card fraud, insurance fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, and affinity fraud. In the United States alone, fraud crimes affect more than 15 million people and cumulatively result in financial losses exceeding $50 billion (Douglas, 2016). Biometric systems have helped in curtailing fraud such as identity theft that entails the theft of personal information. In identity theft cases, fraudsters often misrepresent themselves as the victim by using their credit cards and other personal documents to conduct transactions. However, with the inception of biometric systems, the biometric data of individuals is attached to personal documents such as drivers licenses, and credit cards such that any person would have to provide fingerprint or iris patterns for identification as the owner of the said documents.

Additionally, facial recognition in banks and other institutions has made it increasingly difficult for fraudsters to steal identities or pass off as other people other than themselves. Banks often require fingerprint identification, iris identification, or both as proof of identity when clients conduct suspicious transactions or wish to open deposit boxes. Furthermore, biometric systems provide a convenient way for people to prove identity as opposed to the myriad of personal questions that security companies and banks ask to confirm the identity of clients. They also negate the need for people to remember passwords and pin numbers, which can often be cumbersome to recall, and quickly forgotten (Lee 2008, p.7-11).

However, biometric systems as fraud prevention tools have vulnerabilities. Unlike traditional tools that would require a simple password reset once they are hacked, biometric systems alter the life of the victim considerably. Hackers change the personal information in the systems and replace them with their own. In so doing, the victim cannot access anything that they had secured with the system such as credit cards even after providing biometric data since it does not match the manipulated information in the database. Consequently, the victim has to endure a painstakingly long process as the relevant authorities try to correct the issue (Hudson, 2013).

Biometrics is used all over the globe. It is used airports and in numerous organizations. It is part of everyday life and with advancements in technology; people will continue to use it. Similar to technological advancements, biometric systems have their pros and cons. However, their advantages in combating crime and preventing fraud have outweighed their cons in the same areas. As technology advances, biometrics play a crucial role in identification and authentication. However, collecting this information and use of biometrics causes serious issues concerning privacy. When an individual's data gets into hands of someones, the probability of the information being leaked is usually high. Therefore, despite the advantages which biometrics has brought into the world, it has substantially invaded peoples privacy.


Chianis, A. (2014). 8 Surprising Home Invasion & Burglary Statistics - SafeWise. [online] SafeWise. Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2016].

Douglas, R. (2016). Identity Theft Statistics: 15 million victims a year | [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2016]. (2016). Fighting Crime with Biometrics | NJIT Online. [online] Available at [Accessed 14 Jun. 2016].

Hudson, A. (2013). Biometric fraud: A new generation of hacker. SecureIDNews.

Jain, A.K., Pankanti, S., Prabhakar, S., Hong, L. and Ross, A., 2004, August. Biometrics: a grand challenge. In Pattern Recognition, 2004. ICPR 2004. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on (Vol. 2, pp. 935-942). IEEE.

Lee, V. (2008). Biometrics and identity fraud. Biometric Technology Today, 16(2), pp.7-11.

Millett, L. and N. Pato, J. (2010). Biometric Recognition:: Challenges and Opportunities. New York: National Academies Press, pp.5-37.

Ratha, N. K., Connell, J. H., &Bolle, R. M. (2001). Enhancing security and privacy in biometrics-based authentication systems. IBM Systems Journal,40(3), 614-634.

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