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Human authentication using biometric traits has become an increasingly important issue in a large range of applications. In this paper, a novel channel coding approach for biometric authentication based on distributed source coding principles is proposed. Biometric recognition is formulated as a channel coding problem with noisy side information at the decoder and error correcting codes are employed for user verification. It is shown that the effective exploitation of the noise channel distribution in the decoding process improves performance. Moreover, the proposed method increases the security of the stored biometric templates. As a case study, the proposed framework is employed for the development of a novel gait recognition system based on the extraction of depth data from human silhouettes and a set of discriminative features. Specifically, gait sequences are represented using the radial and the circular integration transforms and features based on weighted Krawtchouk moments. Analytical models are derived for the effective modeling of the correlation channel statistics based on these features and integrated in the soft decoding process of the channel decoder. The experimental results demonstrate the validity of the proposed method over state-of-the-art techniques for gait recognition.