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Biometrics Enters Third Dimension

A three-dimensional mug shot may soon be the only ID you’ll ever need Wired reports.

DuPont Authentication Systems and A4Vision, a company that sells facial-imaging products, have developed a biometric security device that generates in-depth, three-dimensional facial portraits similar to holograms and secure enough to be embedded in documents.

Using A4Vision’s Enrollment Station, people can have their 3-D facial image embedded in a film called Izon and registered as digital data in a database in less than 10 seconds. The device outputs both a 3-D biometric template and a standard color image of the person.

The image in the biometric template carries enough detail to view a subject’s head from ear to ear. The template can be affixed to cards or passports; once the image is embedded, users need only be scanned to see whether their facial characteristics match. The biometric data obtained is more comprehensive than 2-D imagery since it contains information along three axes instead of two. Donald P. D’Amato, a biometrics expert at Mitretek Systems, a nonprofit research organization says:

I believe that the matching of 3-D images can probably be made more accurate than that of conventional face recognition using 2-D imagery. However, the set of 3-D and 2-D features that are chosen will be crucial to the level of accuracy achieved.

Right now the device is said to be accurate enough to distinguish between identical twins. Working with SRI International’s twin registry, the company has tested the device with 36 twin sets, and it was able to distinguish one twin from the other.

Accuracy is a big concern. Identity theft appears to be the fastest-growing crime in America, with identity-related crimes projected to rob the global economy of $24 billion this year. If not well-protected, biometrics may cause even more spectacular cases of ID theft, such as the gummy bear fiasco. Evans says 3-D facial identification is secure, however, because the facial image is only stored with the holder of the biometrics data.

It takes the card or 3-D facial image, the holder and the database to match before security can be breached. So just swiping a card won’t allow me to use someone’s credit card anymore, for example. Or just breaking into a database will not supply me with sufficient data to construct a 3-D facial image.

The issue here is: Can someone not be recognized? Yes … but can someone fool the system into thinking it is someone else? No.

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1 comment to Biometrics Enters Third Dimension

  • Sorry, Gabriel, I flatly do not believe $24 billion in identity theft for either 2003 or 2004. It seems at least 1, prolly 2 orders of magnitude. (spam scams are not identity theft.)

    But the War on Drugs, too, justifies huge snooping, since nothing else stops rich folk from taking drugs (and ID cards won’t, either). There is, in some sense, a race to rid the world of dictators, and stupid drug laws, while the security fears of the people (sheeple?) accept ever greater privacy intrusions.

    Brazil (in Czech, not Slovak) was on over the Christmas breaks — the security apparatus & bureau fumbling are more frightening, because of more likely realization, than Orwell.