In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Biometric Technologies

  • Introduction
  • Journals on Biometrics
  • Biometric Praxis Labs, Art Incubators, and Art Projects
  • When: Biometric Histories
  • Why: Maintaining Power through Biometrics
  • Who: Examining the Targets of Biometric Technologies
  • How: Biometric Technologies and Practices
  • What Next: Biometric Futures
  • What Else: Biometric Resistors

Geography Biometric Technologies
Nicole Nguyen, Emily Kaufman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0209


Since the turn of the 21st century, scholars have examined the technological advances and associated social implications related to the measurement and analysis of unique biological characteristics such as hand geometry and fingerprints, otherwise known as biometrics. Leading scientific journals like IET Biometrics have explored the scientific understandings and practical applications of biometric devices, such as the introduction of facial recognition technology into mass-market cell phones. Social science publications such as Surveillance & Society have investigated the social norms that inform the making of biometric technologies and their impacts on society. More specifically, these analyses have assessed the racialized, gendered, ableist, and classed contours of these emerging technologies that use the body as a metric. In fact, the earliest critical examinations of biometrics by scholars like Lyon and Pugliese focused on how normative understandings calibrated these emerging technologies to the white, able-bodied, cisgendered male body. Although additional scholars like Graham and Wood have demonstrated how digitizing surveillance through biometrics and other technologies intentionally has reinforced social inequities, they often fail to engage in analyses of race and gender. Since then, many scholars, especially women and women of color, have undertaken the study of biometrics to better understand how these technologies reinscribe power in global contexts. To do so, these scholars have added important historical, theoretical, and empirical insights that better account for how race, class, gender, ability, and other axes of social difference shape, and are shaped by, biometric technologies and their implementation. By examining the latest developments in biometrics and the aims of these technological innovations in India, Iraq, Mexico, Norway, the United States, and elsewhere, these scholars highlight and respond to critical absences in more conventional investigations of biometrics, which often ignore how power is enacted in and through these technologies. Browne’s extensive research, for example, has connected early practices of biometric branding to facilitate the transatlantic slave trade to contemporary biometric security practices in airports infused with gendered anti-Blackness. Other critical analyses examine the use of biometrics to police the poor, reinforce gender norms, pathologize disabled bodies, and regulate mobility from the diverse perspectives of those who design, implement, and experience these security practices. Through an exploration of the motivations, funding sources, and purposes of developing biometric technologies, this work takes seriously how biometrics are imbricated in the (re)constitution of power, (re)making of social difference, (re)articulation of spatialized power relations, and embodied experiences that often generate violence, anxiety, and dis-ease. In this bibliography, we organize these contributions around the who, what, where, when, why, and how of biometric systems.

Journals on Biometrics

Biometrics research can be found in a range of journals. These can be roughly divided into scientific and industry journals, such as Biometrics (Formerly Biometrics Bulletin), IET Biometrics, Biometric Technology Today, and Police Chief Magazine, and social science journals including Information, Communication & Society, Security Dialogue, and Surveillance & Society. Articles in both categories feature the latest biometric technologies and applications. Additional journals that explore the social, geopolitical, and economic impact of biometrics and algorithmic governance include Sociology Compass, Crime, Law, and Social Change, and Political Geography.

  • Biometrics.

    As the journal of the International Biometric Society, Biometrics primarily publishes articles that examine the application of statistics and mathematics to the biosciences, with an emphasis on new methods, practices, and principles.

  • Biometric Technology Today.

    As an industry newsletter reaching a wide audience from academics to vendors, Biometric Technology Today publishes pieces that communicate recent innovations and developments in the field of biometrics.

  • IET Biometrics.

    With a focus on technology, IET Biometrics publishes articles that increase scientific understandings, practical applications, and ongoing developments of biometric systems. This journal specifically examines the development of biometric modalities and their implementation in society.

  • Information, Communication & Society.

    As a high-impact journal, iCS publishes interdisciplinary scholarship on the cultural, social, and economic effects of emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs) as well as their impact on popular conceptions of identity, individual privacy and civil liberties, policing practices, and daily life.

  • Police Chief Magazine.

    As the official publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, this industry magazine publishes pieces that provide insight into emerging state-of-the-art technologies and products for law enforcement.

  • Security Dialogue.

    As both a theoretical and empirically driven academic journal, Security Dialogue publishes cutting-edge research that challenges conventional studies of security. These interdisciplinary investigations explore how prevailing conceptualizations and practices of security reinforce and/or disrupt various forms of social difference and their attendant social hierarchies, such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability.

  • Surveillance & Society.

    S&S is an open-access journal that publishes transdisciplinary research examining the relationship between surveillance and society. The journal editors encourage public and policy debates about surveillance and its impact on various communities.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.