All of us have unique and measurable biological characteristics, which can be processed by biometric identity systems. In some cases, these characteristics are also relatively permanent. Fingerprints are the most widely used biometric identifier, but there are many others, such as facial images, voice patterns, irises, complete palm prints, and even our DNA structure.
Through the use of specialized devices, information systems are able to translate these characteristics into mathematical patterns that are easy to process. In an ideal scenario (that’s to say when biometric identifiers are correctly taken, processed and matched), the most biometric identifiers used, the easiest it is for an information system to accurately identify a specific individual.
Biometrics can help to prevent mistaken identity, and can reduce the risk of people being wrongfully apprehended and arrested. They could also potentially be used to optimise the tracking of people who are reported missing. In addition, the risk of discriminatory ethnic profiling at borders may be reduced by introducing a higher degree of automation in border control.
The processes controlling the use of biometrics, however, must be audited and reviewed regularly to guarantee the correct use of the information systems, to observe the respect of the principle of purpose limitation and hence, safeguarding the fundamental rights of the travellers.