Manchester in bid for greater confidentiality

June 23, 2000

The University of Manchester is facing up to the demands for more secure methods of protecting access to confidential information on the internet, writes Tim Greenhalgh.

The university has begun work on a European Union project to develop a computer system that will use face recognition to complement and even replace standard controls.

The growing use of the internet for day-to-day activities such as banking and shopping has led to increasing concerns about the security of information. The project will enable a computer to recognise a user's face, providing a unique key to protect confidential information.

The common way to protect such information is to use a password or pin number. These can be hard to remember and can be identified by software used by hackers. There have been a number of recent incidents that have led to confidential information being accessed by hackers.

The Pounds 750,000 project builds on research at the university into computer modelling of human faces.

The first applications of this face recognition system will be on smart doors, that will unlock and open as people approach, and access to electronic patient records.

Using the human face to control access makes it easy for people to use regardless of age, nationality or disability. It is more acceptable than fingerprint systems, which carry a cultural legacy of criminality.

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