Use of fingerprints for identification has been around for a long time now; In the old Babylonian period, they were used to seal the deal by pressing the fingers into wet clay and by the time we reached the 20th century, fingerprints became the primary evidence in criminal investigations. Today, consumer electronics giants such as Apple & Samsung have already integrated fingerprint recognition in their smartphones. The reach & applicability of fingerprint technology is quite evident; however, with the increased usage across industries & institutions, the concerns about the misuse of fingerprints for malicious reasons have also become quite real.
There are different ways in which the fingerprint biometric systems analyze finger patterns. The most common & widely used matching method requires the use of minutiae points. Minutiae points are unique finger patterns formed at ridge ending and ridge bifurcation which are captured by the sensor (optical or otherwise) and consequently through a set of algorithms are transformed into digital templates which are then stored in a database for future matching. The efficacy of this extraction process is the major privacy concern because if not done diligently & safely, the threat of fingerprint misuse becomes quite eminent.
To counter this problem, manufacturers of fingerprint biometric systems take various precautions to make their products secure. The common method used by most renowned manufacturers for augmenting security is discussed here. In general, when an optical sensor captures the fingerprint, only a certain area of the minutiae is used to create digital templates. The decision regarding which area is optimal for creating the best templates is made with the help of extraction algorithms. Once the template is created, the associated minutia is deleted as only templates are used by the matching algorithms for identification.
It’s important to note that the minutiae sampled from the fingerprint scan do not have all the information which is required to recreate the fingerprint. Also, which makes the fingerprint technology safer is the fact that the template thus formed doesn’t have the needed information to recreate the minutiae from which it was created because the process used is irreversible. To make the process even more secure, advanced encryption of template data is done. Hence, when it comes to privacy of the data linked with fingerprint technology, you can be rest assured that your data is as secure as it could be.