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The Bioacoustic Signatures of Our Bodies Can Reveal Our Identities

A new technique to identify individuals using sound is nearly as accurate as fingerprints and iris scans

2 min read
Image of hand and metrics
Photo of bioacoustics identity authentication system
Photo: Joo Yong Sim/ETRI

Every sound we hear has a unique signature thanks to the way it was created and which objects the sound waves have passed through. A team of South Korean researchers are now exploring whether the unique bioacoustic signatures created as sound waves pass through humans can be used to identify individuals. Their work, described in a study published 4 October in IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, suggests this technique can identify a person with 97 percent accuracy.

The biometric system developed by the group at Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) uses a transducer to generate vibrations and thus sound waves, which pass through a given body part on a person. In this a case, a finger is easily accessible and convenient. After the sound has passed through the skin, bones, and other tissues, a sensor picks up the unique bioacoustic signature. Teasing apart the distinct signatures of individuals is further boosted using modeling.

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How Police Exploited the Capitol Riot’s Digital Records

Forensic technology is powerful, but is it worth the privacy trade-offs?

11 min read
 Illustration of the silhouette of a person with upraised arm holding a cellphone in front of the U.S. Capitol building. Superimposed on the head is a green matrix, which represents data points used for facial recognition
Gabriel Zimmer

The group of well-dressed young men who gathered on the outskirts of Baltimore on the night of 5 January 2021 hardly looked like extremists. But the next day, prosecutors allege, they would all breach the United States Capitol during the deadly insurrection. Several would loot and destroy media equipment, and one would assault a policeman.

No strangers to protest, the men, members of the America First movement, diligently donned masks to obscure their faces. None boasted of their exploits on social media, and none of their friends or family would come forward to denounce them. But on 5 January, they made one piping hot, family-size mistake: They shared a pizza.

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