Disadvantages to Biometric Identification Systems

By WadeH

Biometric identification systems have many disadvantages. Police have at times misused biometric information. Fingerprint readers are used to limit access to computers, but they are no more reliable than turnkey locks. Of course, people are free to do what they will with their own biometric information, but such systems can be abused. One disadvantage is that a determined pirate can steal the biometric information if it's stored on a computer. There are many other drawbacks to these systems.

Evidence Planting

Evidence planting by police happens, and a cop gone astray armed with an innocent person's biometric information can destroy that individual. How often evidence planting happens is an open question, but it has been documented throughout the United States. A famous example is found in the Roth prosecutions reported in the New York Times on February 4, 1997. Special Prosecutor Nelson Roth documented 36 evidence planting cases in New York and five guilty officers served prison time. Fingerprint evidence was planted, and that's reason to think twice before submitting biometric information to the state.


Some of the systems store biometric information through software and keep it in the computer or on a disk. That makes the information vulnerable to copying from any other computer system that can access it. If the computer with the biometric information is connected to the web, someone in a foreign country can copy it. A government within the U.S. can copy it. Data mining among some governments is quite common. It makes identity theft more likely when the biometric information is copied.

Technical Vulnerability--Unauthorized Use

Some biometric identification systems can be beaten with a copy of a fingerprint or eye. Someone who understands the technology can fabricate a copy from the owner's biometric information and access the computer system. These biometric identification systems are often touted as foolproof but they are far from it.

Locks are More Economical

As a security measure on a computer system, a biometric identification system is far more expensive than a simple turnkey lock. It is more expensive to change than the turnkey system, and it's no more reliable. A biometric identification system is not an economically advantageous technology.

A Subtle Presumption Undermined

When biometric information is required by the state, it undermines the presumption in a free society of innocence. In America, police generally need probable cause before arrest and formal fingerprinting at the station, but when the state establishes biometric identification schemes, the tradition shifts. People are expected to show up at the government office and submit to fingerprinting, much like the criminally accused of the past.

Notoriously Expensive

Biometric identification systems are notoriously expensive. There are much cheaper ways of confirming the identity of an individual. In a radically difficult economy, state expenditures on such systems are questionable. Astute private individuals find less expensive systems.


To safeguard freedoms, it's best to preserve privacy. Biometric identification systems undermine privacy by making identity theft more likely. When implemented by the state, the situation is far worse because such systems have been grossly abused in the past. They've even resulted in state crime. For those concerned with freedom, it is wise to avoid biometric systems.