The alleged liveness of “live”: Legal visuality, biometric liveness testing and the metaphysics of presence

Joseph Pugliese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In the context of contemporary societies preoccupied with questions of surveillance and identity veri fi cation, biometric systems are being increasingly deployed across a wide range of institutions and organisations in order to provide security of access. In this chapter, I examine the techniques that might be deployed by fraudsters in order to trick biometric systems into giving them illegitimate access to data and/or controlled areas. In order to counter the tactics used by fraudsters to “fool” biometric systems, biometric scientists and technologists are in-building within the technologies a number of tests designed to detect fraudsters. One of the key fraud detection methods being deployed by biometric systems is so-called liveness testing; liveness testing is being used to determine whether the person being screened by the system is actually present (and “alive”) rather than a simulacrum reproducing a stolen identity. In the course of this chapter, I proceed to situate the procedures of “liveness testing” within a Derridean critique of the metaphysics of presence in order to disclose the unacknowledged philosophemes that inform legal, scienti fi c and technological understandings of the body, the legal subject and identity. I conclude this essay by focusing on the development of a new range of biometric technologies that are attempting to preclude digital spoo fi ng by focusing on the seemingly non-replicable depths of the inside of the body. Regardless of this descent into the depths of the body, I argue that, once again, these transductions of the “raw” organic material of the soma cannot escape either the logic of iterability or its consequent spoofable effects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw, culture and visual studies
EditorsAnne Wagner, Richard K. Sherwin
Place of PublicationDordrecht
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9789048193226
ISBN (Print)9789048193219
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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