Abstract: Recent research has explored the possibility of extracting ancillary information from primary biometric traits viz., face, fingerprints, hand geometry, and iris. This ancillary information includes personal attributes, such as gender, age, ethnicity, hair color, height, weight, and so on. Such attributes are known as soft biometrics and have applications in surveillance and indexing biometric databases. These attributes can be used in a fusion framework to improve the matching accuracy of a primary biometric system (e.g., fusing face with gender information), or can be used to generate qualitative descriptions of an individual (e.g., young Asian female with dark eyes and brown hair). The latter is particularly useful in bridging the semantic gap between human and machine descriptions of the biometric data. In this paper, we provide an overview of soft biometrics and discuss some of the techniques that have been proposed to extract them from the image and the video data. We also introduce a taxonomy for organizing and classifying soft biometric attributes, and enumerate the strengths and limitations of these attributes in the context of an operational biometric system. Finally, we discuss open research problems in this field. This survey is intended for researchers and practitioners in the field of biometrics.