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Biometric Myths: Are they Real?


Biometrics seems futuristic to many people. A computer in an automated time and attendance system scans your face, fingerprint, or hand to verify you are a person that it recognizes. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel.

Illustration by Peter Wellman:


The fact that people do not fully understand how biometrics work has given rise to the many myths surrounding this technology. Let’s debunk six of the common ones:

Myth #1 – Iris recognition scans will damage your eyes permanently

Lasers will burn your retinas out! Not! This myth comes from a misunderstanding of the technology used to scan irises. These scanners do not use lasers. The scanner takes a black and white photo of the iris that is completely safe for the eyes.

Myth #2 – Stolen body parts allow access.

Hack off a hand. Pluck out an eye. This is a classic from Hollywood movie screens. Not going to work! Most biometric systems require a pulse to be present on the hand being scanned and pupil dilation present on an iris scan. Even without that requirement, body parts become useless for scanning within minutes of removal. The iris of the eye clouds over. The detached finger’s skin becomes limp and lifeless.

Myth #3 – Children and small women are invisible to fingerprint or palm scanning.

Kids and Asian women, the myth goes. This myth comes from early technology challenges some systems had. That technology had difficulty reading faint fingerprints or palm prints present on children and smaller women. Today’s higher resolution scanning has taken care of that problem. Everyone has to use the automated time and attendance system, with no exceptions.

Myth #4 – Scanned finger and palm prints make your personal biometric data available to law enforcement.

The law is out to get you! Scan your hand at work and the FBI will be at your doorstep by dinner! Not really. The biometric technology used in the private sector is quite different that used by law enforcement and government agencies. The systems, which scan the iris, finger, or palm, turn that image into a mathematical representation. The system does not keep a picture of the actual scan, just the representation.

A hand punch time clock does not even do that. It just measures the hand’s width, height, and density. None of this is useful for law enforcement.

Myth #5 – Biometric scanners spread disease.

This myth comes from the fear that multiple people using the same scanner will spread disease. The manufacturers have already taken this into account in their designs. It is common for manufacturers to embed silver-based agents into the platen, which inhibits bacterial growth and degradation. AMGtime’s (Schlage brand) Hand Punch time clocks provide this same protection.

Myth #6 – Hand punch scanners are tools of Satan.

Putting your right hand on the scanner means that you are sweating allegiance to Satan. Or something like that. Whether or not particular technologies are the work of Satan is a theological question, not a business one. This technological development has the single purpose of acting as a security barrier to protect corporate assets, data, employees, or physical spaces. No one in the biometrics industry has any known evil intentions.

With so many security concerns these days, biometric scanning is going to become more common as the future unfolds. Whether you encounter them at a security access door or an automated time and attendance system, these systems work to secure data, assets, and physical spaces for everyone’s safety and security.


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