Biometric Security and User Privacy in Identity Management: What You Need to Know
In the digital age, authentication methods play a crucial role in securing sensitive information and protecting users' identities. Biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans, have emerged as the most reliable and unique form of ascertaining people are who they claim to be when they interact online.. However, concerns around storing biometric data have hindered the widespread adoption of biometric-based identity management systems. In this blog post, we will explore why biometrics are a reliable method of authentication, the challenges companies face in implementing biometric systems, and the concept of privacy by design in decentralized biometric storage.
Why is Biometric Authentication Important
Biometrics offer a level of reliability unmatched by traditional authentication methods like passwords or PINs. Unlike passwords, which can be forgotten or easily hacked, biometric identifiers are unique to each individual. Fingerprints, for example, have distinctive ridge patterns that are nearly impossible to replicate, making them highly reliable for authentication purposes. Additionally, biometric authentication provides a convenient and user-friendly experience, reducing the burden of remembering complex passwords. In fact, today, a majority of consumers who use biometrics prefer it over other authentication methods. The most popular biometric authentication method in consumer applications is facial or selfie recognition.
Navigating the User Privacy and Digital Security Dilemma
While biometrics present a reliable authentication method, the storage of biometric data raises legitimate user privacy concerns. Biometric data, once compromised, cannot be easily changed like a password. Storing biometric information in a centralized database creates a honeypot of personally identifiable information (PII), inviting hackers to target it. This is not a theoretical concern and the potential risk has led many companies to hesitate in adopting biometric authentication systems, especially in light of GDPR, CPRA and other privacy laws.
To overcome this, innovations in privacy by design have emerged for biometrics. Privacy by design is an approach that emphasizes incorporating privacy-enhancing measures into the design and architecture of a system from the outset. In the context of biometric authentication, privacy by design suggests a decentralized storage approach, where biometric data is never stored in a complete form or reassembled, reducing the risk of a hack or data breach.
In one of the more unique and scalable privacy by design approaches for biometrics, the data is split into shards, encrypted and distributed over a multi-party cloud network, where both the storage and the processing takes place. The shards are never reassembled, even for matching. The original biometric image is also discarded. This technique leverages multi-party computation and zero knowledge proofs. Because there are no centralized keys or tokens to manage with this approach, it is highly resistant to quantum computing and insider threats, providing the utmost in user privacy protection.
Creating an Effective Identity Management Program with Built-in Biometric Security and User Privacy
Identity management systems are complex to establish and manage. There are multiple elements that need to be orchestrated, disjointed systems whose rule engines, score outputs and data structures don’t necessarily align with each other. One way to overcome the challenge is by thinking about biometrics as a system of record that can connect the disparate functions and be a source of truth across the user journey. Decentralized biometric storage should be a cornerstone of the strategy so that privacy concerns do not stand in the way of effective identity management.
Biometrics offer a highly reliable method of authentication, but concerns about the digital security and privacy of stored biometric data have held back widespread adoption. Privacy by design principles, combined with decentralized storage, provide a solution that balances reliability and privacy. By securely storing biometric templates and avoiding the storage of complete biometric data, companies can implement identity management systems that prioritize both user convenience and data privacy. As technology advances, it is essential for organizations to embrace innovative approaches to protect user identities and build trust in biometric authentication systems.