A depository is a file or set of files in which data is stored for the purpose of safekeeping or identity authentication. A common example is the set of personal data files at a credit reporting agency such as Equifax. Another example is the data contained at a state motor vehicle department.

In a biometric security system, a depository contains data about people's physical characteristics such as iris prints and finger images. Additional information may be added, including facial characteristics, voice prints, and hand prints. When a person's identity must be verified, one or more biometric samples is taken in real time, and this data is compared with the data in the depository.

In general information storage applications, a depository is a physical site where data is kept in the form of hard copies, magnetic disks, magnetic tapes, compact disks (CDs), and similar media. A good example is the safe deposit vault in a financial institution.

An ideal depository is secure, in the sense that only authorized persons or institutions can gain access to the data it contains. However, experience has shown that many depositories, no matter how secure they claim to be, can be compromised by a determined hacker or thief.

This was last updated in September 2005

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