Eye-Tracking Technology as the Next Step in Security

As long as I can remember, any user account on a computer or at a bank I’ve ever used has utilized a PIN for security.  I’ve had to remember 4-digit numbers or odd phrases with letters and numbers to access my information, and at times have forgotten them or the variations I’ve used on them for a particular site.  Needless to say, this has been a cause of annoyance over the years.  Just last year, I received a message from Google that there was an attempt to access my account from Thailand when I sitting comfortably at home in New York City.  Immediately I changed my password to something completely different–but now I sometimes have a hard time remembering which sites have the new password and which still utilize some variation on the old.  These days we all have many different sites for which we need an account, and each one requires a password.  My bank, Google, PayPal, Yahoo, even WordPress all have a password to remember.

And passwords, of course, come with their risks.  Who really has a different, unique password for EVERY site they visit these days?  Who could remember all these different phrases easily, or even want to?  After so many years, isn’t there an easier way that is also more secure?

Researchers now say that eye-tracking technology can be used to replace things like PIN numbers at an ATM.  Here is the article:

Eye-Tracking Could Outshine Passwords if Made User Friendly

These researchers have used an infrared camera and software to track the eye as it moves over a series of targets on a screen, or across words in a sentence.  Apparently each person’s eye movements provide enough uniqueness in this situation to rival passwords in security.  Part of the idea of this development is that user interface plays a large part of the comfort people feel with their electronic security.  As the lead researcher says:

“If you develop the technology and user interface in parallel, you can make sure the technology fits the users rather than the other way around,” [Cecilia] Aragon said. “It’s very important to have feedback from all stakeholders in the process while you’re designing a biometric identification system.”

That’s all well and good, and I agree that user interface is important to consider when designing something that people interact with regularly…

…but I don’t buy it for security.  For security systems, it’s SECURITY that matters most.  As such, technology such as retinal scanners or fingerprint scanners are much more secure.  And when you consider that these bits of technology have been around for many years and are even in significant use in many areas of life, why haven’t they been incorporated into personal security much more yet?

IBM introduced a fingerprint scanner on a laptop model back in 2004.

The IBM ThinkPad T42 with fingerprint scanner

That’s a long time ago…yet who’s seen a laptop with a fingerprint scanner any time recently?  Where has this technology gone?  With the modern development of internet capabilities, it seems like it would be easy to use a physical scanner like this in conjunction with the internet to provide fingerprint security to websites.

Similarly, retinal scanners have been around for ages as well.  Who hasn’t seen a movie involving high-end security that uses retinal scanners in the last 20 years?  While movies are movies, the technology has certainly been around for a long time.  Why can’t we incorporate something like this into ATMs in public places, so that it removes the possibility of someone stealing your pin?

I understand that the cost of these technologies might be prohibitive, and perhaps there are some security issues that have not been perfected yet.  But I absolutely believe that user interface has nothing to do with the lack of this technology in the public sphere.  What’s so difficult about holding still while a sensor looks in your eye?  What’s so difficult about touching your fingertip to a pad?  Especially when you factor in the added security over a simple password or PIN, I believe most people would be more than willing to use these better methods, interface aside.

So why aren’t they more widespread?  I think it really might have something to do with marketing.  If a bank chain, for example, really pushed fingerprint technology as a security feature at ATMs or at home with a scanner, it would catch on.  The same goes for retinal scanning.  A simple trip to the bank could record your pattern, and then you could easily use it at scanner-equipped ATMs.  If the technology is marketed properly, I think it will be successful, and much more so than eye-tracking technology.

Is eye-tracking the future of personal security?  I have a hard time believing that when, with a little effort, fingerprint and retinal scanning are already here.  At the very least, maybe it is time to move on from passwords.

What do you think?


One comment

  1. […] Eye-Tracking Technology as the Next Step in Security (humanitygoing.com) […]

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