The Sisyphean Struggle for Biometric Security

Biometric security — which employs systems that read people’s fingerprints or compare their voiceprint or retina scans to information in data banks in order to authenticate them — is being heavily used in some of the United States’ most critical installations. How reliable are biometric systems? What happens if you have a cold or haven’t had enough sleep and your voice is hoarse, your nose is running, and your pupils are contracted or dilated? Can security systems mistakenly identify you as a terrorist or a person of interest in an ongoing police investigation?

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