Retinal and Eye Scanning Impact on Society

The Online Fingerprint and the Future of Online Security

As the internet spreads to every aspect of our lives, our online security is becoming increasingly intertwined with our eyes rather than our fingerprints. Retinal scanning is the forerunner in new verification technologies in the online age. Retinal scans are similar to fingerprints since every individual has a unique retina or print. The retina is the farthest back wall of cells in our eyes, and they detect light and pass the information through the optical nerve to the brain. (1) 

Retinal scanning is highly prevalent because of its reliability. The company Innovatrics says, “The retina is regarded as one of the most reliable biometric modalities available in the marketplace nowadays” (1). Furthermore, a company called Clear, whose technology is used in airport security, allows users to bypass stages of airport security solely through eye scanning. This example highlights the safety of retinal scanning, as flight security strongly relies upon it to ensure every person is identified correctly. 

Other examples of retinal scanning-based security are in military scenarios. NBC reported that the US military can use images of a body and confirm its identity through retinal scanning (3). The military revolves around life and death situations, so the technology must be near to perfect. To prove its excellence, retinal scanning boasts a 1.8% false rejection rate, which is when a retina is incorrectly rejected. (1) Additionally, Apple’s face ID, which uses eyes and facial points to identify someone, is only incorrect 1 in 1,000,000 times compared to 1 in 50,000 for its fingerprint-based Touch ID. (4) Retinal scans are far more efficient and easier to scan as they are touch-free. Phones, locks, and security kiosks are handled by many people daily, so they can easily spread infections.

A Clear kiosk at an airport TSA security checkpoint

As with every new advancement, retinal scans breed fears of their negative effects. The company, Chron, comments on the misnomers and truths behind the scans: “The scan itself poses no threat to the eye or to your overall health, though users of retinal scans complain of discomfort from the technology as they must lean in and keep their eye close to the machine for 30 seconds in order for a scan to be accurate” (5). A placebo effect can occur because the eye strain from focusing on the scanner is often attributed to health effects. This worry stems from the infrared light used in retinal scans, even though it has been proven to be harmless. (5) A greater fear is rooted in the intrusiveness of giving tech companies and governments personal biometric data. There are fears that personal images or data of our eyes could be hacked.

Retinas are just as integral to our identification as our fingerprints, yet this new technology must be properly guarded and monitored to ensure our eyes, our vessel of viewing the world, remain safe.


  1. (2022, May 31). Retinal Scanning Definition, FAQs – Innovatrics. Innovatrics. Retrieved from
  2. (2023). CLEAR. Retrieved from
  3. ‌Baldor, L. C. (2009, January 28). Military seeks better use of finger and eye scans. NBC News; NBC News. Retrieved from
  4. (2024, January 10). About Face ID advanced technology – Apple Support. Apple Support. Retrieved from
  5. (201‌7) What Are the Dangers of Retinal Scanners? Small Business – Retrieved from