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The battle of recognition technologies: fingerprint vs facial recognition.

A thorough side by side comparison of two technologies,  Fingerprint and Face recognition, taking into consideration pros and cons relative to security, privacy, affordability, and more...

Published: August 9, 2021 By Hamna Imran

Title image for the battle of recognition technologies, Fingerprint vs Facial recognition.

Due to Technological progress, smartphone security has come far beyond the PIN or password stage but has also made phones more vulnerable how? Well, Most people prefer having locks on their mobile phones for peace of mind if it's lost or stolen. So biometrics seems the latest option because it identifies a person's identity, which is extremely hard to replicate, but with them comes the fear of "data breach.

According to a report, most consumers rely heavily on mobile devices to store and access sensitive digital data, so a secure and accurate method of unlocking remains a heated debate. Among the other bio-metric technology identification systems lie the famous and often compared Fingerprint and Facial recognition technology. So which of the two options is better? Fingerprint or facial recognition. You also seem confused about the choice, So don’t forget to read the answer.

 

Note:

Before delving into biometric technology, we will consider the role of passwords, patterns, and PINs, which are somehow considered outdated methods of unlocking. On unpacking a phone, even today, you need to set a password, PIN code, or pattern as baseline protection. Afterwards, as the second line of defence, a biometric authentication option is set up, making it easier for you to access your mobile device, terminating the practice of manually enter the code every time. However, please note that anyone who can find your password, pattern, or PIN to use it to unlock your phone can delete your biometric ID and add their ID. Biometric technology is not meant to eliminate traditional authentication. It just saves you from having to enter a password, pattern, or PIN every time you log in. This allows you to set a particularly strong password because you don't have to enter it all the time.

Bio-metrics; the new norm  

Biometrics is the technology that is used to measure and analyze human characteristics, which include fingerprints, Irises, facial recognition, DNA. These Physiological modalities such as facial structure and Fingerprint are employed in smartphones to make them secure.

  • Biometric authentication
    Biometrics technology measures and analyzes human characteristics, including fingerprints, iris, facial recognition, and DNA. Physiological modalities such as facial structure and fingerprints are used in smartphones to ensure their safety. Thanks to Bio-metrics, a person can be identified and authenticated based on recognizable and verifiable data, yet unique and specific. Every time you authenticate your identity, the sensor compares your characteristic data with an already saved bio-metric "template" to determine similarity. In this mode, the question arises, "Is it you, Sir or Madam?"
    Here I have given a side-by-side comparison of the two technologies.

Facial recognition vs Finger identification

  • Facial recognition technology as a biometric science uses facial features. Facial recognition algorithms create a biometric template by detecting and measuring various characteristics, or feature points, of human faces, including the location of the eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, chin, and ears. A comparison of the two templates is made to identify the match between them. Liveness detection ensures that the sample is a real human and not a digital or paper reproduction.

    Facial recognition systems; Biometric recognition system

    Image source – clearviewcommunications.com

  • Fingerprint identification utilizes software and hardware to compare characteristic arches, loops, and whorls from the fingerprint of a legit person with the ridges in the stored database. Either a camera or electrical sensors or a combination of these two is used to capture the image.

    Fingerprint Identification system

    Image source - pixabay.com

Comfortability

  • Facial recognition makes it easier for these users as they would just have to bring their phone in level with their eyes. Some people consider it a major hassle to move their thumb or index finger to a particular sensor on the phone, which logically is the same amount of energy use, but Face ID lovers say it’s easier.
  • Fingerprint detection might be a hassle, but most people perceive Face ID as intrusive and consider it a threat to their privacy. They don't want to entrust their sensitive data to smartphone companies for fear of a breach. However, while using a fingerprint sensor, you don't have to worry about an Identity breach.

    Which is more convenient, Face Identification or Fingerprint Identification?

    Image source - freepik.com

Accuracy

  • Face recognition is affected by a wide variety of factors, including lighting, pose, makeup, accessories. The risk of error also varies depending on the quality of the phone camera (resolution). Also, if it’s clean or not. A verification photo taken with a low-resolution camera or in the dark can increase the risk of error.
    We have noted that particular bio-metric techniques were more or less well suited to some people. A specific system may work for men, but not so well for women or old people, but not for young people, for people with fair skin, but less well for darker tones.
    Difficulties will arise if you are fond of changing appearance by dying your hair or changing your beard in the case of men. The accuracy of the identification also relies on the good adaptation of Face ID software.
  • The fingerprint identification is accurate 92 per cent of the time. Fingerprint sensors are particularly well adapted in the latest devices and are the most widely used of all Bio-metric systems.

Processing power

  • Facial recognition software works a little slower and has a higher risk of false positives.
  • The processing power of Fingerprint ID and Face recognition is different; fingerprint sensors work a bit faster than facial recognition.

    Is Fingerprint ID faster than Face ID?

    Image source - cyclonis.com

Affordability

  • Each retina scanner (for advanced facial recognition) is quite expensive. Fingerprint technology seems to be cheaper today, although, in the long run, facial verification software can eventually enable small businesses to reduce the cost of various hardware and special parts of equipment. This will make developers' work ten times easier.
  • The fingerprint sensor's installation process is easier, and they are cheap. Especially now as this technology is becoming a part of people’s lives and the sensors are used in 80 per cent of the World. It is estimated that an additional 4.6 billion fingerprint sensors might be installed by 2024.

Security

  • Security researchers emphasize that a Face ID is secure but not as much as a fingerprint. That’s because facial features have resemblances and can be mistaken. There are plenty of stories about family members being able to unlock an iPhone that wasn’t theirs. Yeah, even if they don't possess the same eyes and hair.

Although face recognition is better than no protection at all, it’s not relatively more secure than Touch ID,

writes Forbes.

Hackers took less than 7 days to break through Face ID’s security. They used a 3D-printed copy of someone’s face, with stuck-on paper eyes, to do it. An average robber might not be interested in spending much time and energy, but it does show that — in theory. A determined person or an organization can hack your smartphone.

Touch ID may be a little inconvenient for some people but remember this formula.

With ease may come breach

With inconvenience comes security”.

In the end, it’s just the age-old question

Security or Convenience?

Spoofing

Facial images are now easily accessible to anybody on social media, and other mediums mean fraudsters can more easily obtain images of potential fraud victims that can be used by fraudsters for spoofing.

They may try to bypass face bio-metrics used for authentication or access control by presenting a non-live image of an authorized user during the challenge. Face recognition algorithms must update themselves to be able to recognize a non-live digital image of a face.

Even if consequences are not that catastrophic and mostly accidental, unlockings occur, between family members, e.g. Twins can be recognized as one. Face ID still is less reliable than fingerprints for getting access to phones and devices.

Also, Google admits that its smartphone within built facial recognition capabilities, the new “Pixel 4” makes it possible for even a person with closed eyes to unlock their phone, which means it can work while they are asleep or even dead.

Can deep fakes spoof Face recognition systems?

Image source - intechopen.com

  • Faking fingerprints is not impossible, but hard. Researchers found a way to create fake fingerprints to fool many devices, although it took a lot of effort. The security of fingerprint-based authorization has faced an era of fierce debate.
  • According to Sir Francis Galton's (Darwin's cousin) calculations; the possibility of finding two similar fingerprints is one in 64 billion, even with identical twins (homozygotes).
    Touch ID can protect users from opportunistic strikers, and it is substantially better than nothing.

Conclusion

No matter which one of the two technologies wins this battle. We must remember that its technology and, by its nature, it is vulnerable. Where there are professionals geared up for protecting devices, there are malicious actors too.

Phones these days come equipped with both sensors, and more options are getting ready to win the market like IRIS scanner and Palm/vein recognition.

Well, if you prefer to stay away from all this, don't keep sensitive information on your phone. If that seems tough, then what should you do. As for me as a professional, I have implied in this article too that Fingerprint sensors are a step ahead in secure unlocking.

Nevertheless, we have come far from the days of manually typing passwords all the time, and there is no going back. This is good news. Do you agree?

Tell me in the comments.

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Hamna Imran
Cyber Security student and keen learner, writing articles for several other websites.

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