Can people be identified with their brainwaves? Yes. A technology has been developed that makes it possible for people to be identified with their brainwaves. The technology so far has proven to be 100% accurate. The unique brainwaves can also be termed as “brainprint”, according to this Business Standard link, which means, people’s unique brainwaves can be used for authenticating them. The technology can be used in high-security applications.
The biggest benefit of using brainwaves for identifying people is that unlike finger and retina scans, your brainwaves or your “brainprint” cannot be duplicated.
Researchers at Binghamton University in US closely observed the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset. An array of 500 images and other visual cues were shown to them, for example a slice of pizza, a boat, Anne Hathaway or the word “conundrum”. These diverse images are supposed to elicit unique responses according to different individuals, and this was what was revealed.
After initially showing them the images and the words, the participants were anonymized and they were exposed to the same pictures and words. The computer system was able to identify them with 100% accuracy.
The research findings were published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security.
The uniqueness of individual brainwaves coming from different individuals upon seeing different images and words was 100% accurate. It means, the brainwaves were 100% identifiable – the research team members could make out from which individual which thought was coming.
“When you take hundreds of these images,” said one of the research team members, Assistant Professor Sarah Laszlo, “where every person is going to feel differently about each individual one, then you can be really accurate in identifying which person it was who looked at them just by their brain activity.”
The process or the phenomena of using brainwaves to identify people and authenticate them is called brain biometrics.
Sarah Laszlo further observed, “If someone’s fingerprint is stolen, that person can’t just grow a new finger to replace the compromised fingerprint – the fingerprint for that person is compromised forever. In the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorized user, the authorized user could then ‘reset’ their brainprint.”
Is brain biometrics going to be used to authenticate users in devices like the iPhone or other smartphones? Highly unlikely because of the advanced nature of the technology involved.
Another Assistant Professor at Binghaamton University, Zhanpeng Jin notes, “We tend to see the applications of this system as being more along the lines of high-security physical locations, like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs, where there aren’t that many users that are authorized to enter, and those users don’t need to constantly be authorizing the way that a consumer might need to authorize into the phone or computer.”
This new system is called CEREBRE – Cognitive Event-RElated Biometric REcognition protocol.