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Shamir's proposal for identifying individuals attracts worldwide attention

Release Date: February 28, 2013
Lior Shamir

In the latest edition of the International Journal of Biometrics, Assistant Professor Lior Shamir of Lawrence Technological University demonstrates that it could eventually be possible to use MRI technology to ascertain individual identity by scanning hard-to-alter body parts such as knees.

That proposal caught the attention of dozens of websites and media outlets around the world as journalists floated their own ideas about what this idea could eventually lead to. Two prominent examples are this article in the Body Odd newsletter on nbcnews.com and this article in the Huffington Post.

Using an image classification scheme based on an algorithm that he originally developed while working for the National Institutes of Health, Shamir achieved 93 percent accuracy in identifying 100 individuals using MRI images of their knees.

The advantage of such a system is that it is harder to mask the uniqueness of an individual’s knee than other human characteristics, according to Shamir, an assistant professor in LTU’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

“Deceptive manipulation requires an invasive and complicated medical procedure, and therefore is more resistant to spoofing compared to methods such as face, fingerprints, or iris,” Shamir pointed out.

Shamir cautions that it will be a long time before MRI imaging could become a practical tool for identifying people in public settings such as airports. Major advances in MRI technology and equipment would be required. But he believes internal body parts could be a useful area for further study in biometrics, which utilizes computer science to identify individuals by their physical characteristics or traits.

“Further studies will develop the concept of internal biometrics, and will lead to automatic identification methods that are highly resistant to spoofing,” Shamir said.