Biometric security technology for purposes of identification was once the domain of James Bond films, but has within the past decade moved beyond fiction and even high-end military and governmental applications and now can be found in a variety of situations. Biometric identification of persons for the purpose of granting entry to a location or access to data makes sense in the regard that it is predicated on the specific, unique, identification of the person and not a code, card, or key that could be learned or stolen from its intended users. Thereby, biometrics provide an additional layer of security not found in traditional key-based or code-based mechanisms for entry. A handprint, fingerprint, or ocular scan or even voice imprint scan is unique to the each person and cannot be easily duplicated or forged.
These benefits aside, some uses of biometrics have been strongly questioned by both legal-rights groups and end-users: in example, at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Florida, a plan to use handprint scanners to admit students to an on-campus gym was contested due to concerns over other possible applications of the scanned handprints required for this project. Would the university retain this information in a database where it could be used by police for identification? Would they sell this information or the other personal data related to students? In a time of greater awareness over civil rights and the ability of various technologies to gather personal data, the use of biometrics in a situation such as a campus gym is bound to meet with some criticism, despite the cost and time-saving advantages it provides.
On the other end of the spectrum is the concern over how biometric scanners in more critical applications, such as those of the military, government, and higher levels of business, could be duped or hacked. The spy movie premise of a user being killed and his hand cut off to provide the bad guys with a means of gaining entry to a secure facility is as far-fetched as it is ghoulish, but like any computer-based system, biometric scanners can be hacked and can be tweaked to allow unintended access. One of the greatest possible issues with biometric scans is that they provide a false sense of security for some institutions and may lead the on-site security staff to be more lax, thinking that the complex technology will do their jobs for them.