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The difference between biometric verification, identification, and authentication

The difference between biometric verification, identification, and authentication

Biometric systems have become common for enhancing security measures across different sectors. These systems utilize distinct physiological characteristics, including fingerprints, facial features, and iris patterns. However, biometrics are typically used for three separate processes, which perform different functions, and it is up to organizations to determine which is appropriate to their use case.

In biometric security, it’s important to distinguish between authentication, verification, and identification, as these terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably. This knowledge is crucial for organizations to determine the most suitable process for their needs, and how privacy considerations apply to them. For instance, a bank may require customers to provide a biometric sample for identity proofing when conducting a financial transaction.

What is biometric verification?

Biometric verification is a process that confirms an individual’s claimed identity by comparing their biometric data to a specific stored record. It’s like answering the question, “Are you who you say you are?” This process uses a one-to-one (1:1) matching system, where the biometric sample is compared to a single stored record to verify the claimed identity. It’s commonly used for access control, such as financial transactions, demonstrating its practical relevance.

Purpose: To verify a claimed identity.

Process: One-to-one (1:1) matching.

In the banking industry, it is reasonable for banks to implement biometric verification during high-value transactions or at ATMs to enhance security and prevent fraud. This extra layer of security helps confirm the individual’s identity before allowing financial operations to proceed.

What is biometric identification?

This process determines the individual’s identity by comparing their biometric data against a database of stored biometric information. It answers the question, “Who is this person?” It involves a one-to-many (1:N) matching system, where the biometric sample is compared to multiple records in the database to find a match. It’s commonly used in border control and law enforcement.

Purpose: To identify an unknown individual.

Process: One-to-many (1:N) matching.

In law enforcement, organizations utilize biometric identification, such as facial recognition or fingerprint databases when identifying suspects in criminal investigations. This technology allows for the quick identification of individuals from a large database of known criminals or suspects, ultimately assisting in resolving crimes, so long as the law enforcement body has access to a prior record of the individual being searched.

What is biometric authentication?

Biometric authentication evaluates the genuineness of an individual as a method of confirming their authorization to access the system or specific information. It involves establishing trust in the authenticity, validating a person’s identity and an authenticator.

Purpose: To confirm an individual’s identity.

Process: One-to-one (1:1) matching.

Sometimes, companies may add one-to-many (1:N) checks to their authentication workflow, like against a blacklist of known fraudsters, but authentication itself is a one-to-one (1:1) process.

Biometric authentication is commonly observed when a user unlocks a smartphone using fingerprint or facial recognition. In this context, the application necessitates a secure method to authenticate the user’s asserted identity, thus ensuring that only the authorized user can access the device.

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