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Biometric fingerprinting and contagious diseases

by Noreen Sarai
12 Nov 2014 at 08:30hrs | Views

Biometrics is a technology used for identification or authentication purposes using biological or behavioral characteristics. Examples of biometric techniques are; Body odor, which analyses the unique chemical pattern made up by human body smell; Ear shape, which analysis the unique shape of the outer ear, lobes and bone; Face recognition which analysis the unique facial features; fingerprint scanning, which analysis the unique finger ridges and furrows as well as characteristics that occur at minutiae points (ridge bifurcation or ridge ending).

Finger print devices are by far the most popular form of biometric security. It is commonly used because they have very high accuracy, they are the most economical biometric PC user authentication technique, its easy to use, and they require small storage space for the biometric template, reducing the size of the database memory required. Standard fingerprint identification systems are comprised of a sensor for scanning a fingerprint and a processor which stores the fingerprint database, and software which compares and matches the fingerprint to the predefined database.

Because of the advantages of fingerprint scanning system, the technique has been employed in many places such as airports, companies and immigration points. The sad part of this system is that the fingerprint sensor may transmit infectious diseases from one person to another. Some of the diseases which may be transmitted via the fingerprint sensor are colds, influenza, hepatitis and respiratory diseases. Currently, researchers are debating if these sensors can also transmit ebola virus.

How then should we prevent contagious disease transmission when using the above mentioned system? The quickest answer which comes is to eliminate the use of fingerprinting scanners which involves contact, then use alternative safe identification or authentication methods. Yes, this is the best way to go. But how long will it take for the owners of these devices to dump this system after they have invested a lot of money? Most likely it may take ages. That is after many have been the victims.

The ideal solution is to disinfect the fingerprint sensor after each and everyone has used the device. This may be time consuming especial at places where there is a high traffic of people such as at airports and immigration points. However the most important thing is our health. I encourage people to immediately use antiseptic wipers or sanitizers after using the fingerprint scanner. Also as we are advised by medical experts do not touch your eyes, nose, mouth or eat before you wash your hands. The virus/bacteria/pathogens can easily enter into our body system through the mentioned body parts. Even for the care of others lets wash our hands before we use the fingerprint sensors.

Another solution is to use the e-Smart security system were someone has a personal fingerprint sensor integrated into his/her phone or travelers document. Therefore at check points you use the personal fingerprint sensor, thus eliminating transmission of pathogens from one person to another.

Lecturer – Information Security & Assurance Department (Harare Institute of Technology :

Source - Noreen Sarai

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