Biometrics: Even If Your Eye Is Puffy

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Biometric technologies are ineffably cool. For those not geeky enough to know, biometrics are measurements that allow you to recognize a person using distinguishing traits. For instance, if you were to wake up one morning with your eye (or eyes) so horribly swollen and crazy-looking* that you were unrecognizable, your fingerprint (a common biometric) would enable you to be recognized, despite the bad case of monster-eye. Using biometrics as identifiers is getting more and more common; students are paying for their meals with their thumbs, airports are looking into iris scanning — soon, you won't need a password for anything. Today, we're going to update you on the latest in biometric technologies... how do you feel about the new identifiers? Too Minority Report?

*I woke up this morning with a wild allergic reaction in my eye, and many of my co-workers probably thought I was Robert DeNiro with long hair when I came in this afternoon.



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I welcome new technologies, because I have been fingerprinted by police departments all over the country for my various jobs, and they invariably come back "unreadable." For older people, people who handle harsh chemicals, or who have unreadable fingerprints for whatever reason, it would be a benefit if more sophisticated technologies were adopted.

Sent by C.M. | 2:11 PM | 8-8-2007

I am very uncomfortable with the movement toward biometric controls on everything. You can make the technology as smart as you want, but you can't make the people entering and controlling the data any smarter. My biometrics are nothing like my credit card numbers or social security number. If someone steals my credit card numbers I can always get new number tied to a new account. If someone compromises my biometric data, I can't get new fingerprints or irises.

Sent by Mark Burrell | 2:32 PM | 8-8-2007

Not having a good fingerprint is more likely to be a problem itself what with the spread of biometric fingerprint scanning, which is apparently the cheapest and most common method in use.

I have very scarred hands from psoriatic arthritis, with virtually no fingerprints. This resulted in a major hassle during a 3 day trip to an east coast water park, as the scanning equipment was unable to recognize any fingerprint. The attendants were skeptical when I said I didn't have any fingerprints, and repeatedly tried to scan my prints, to no avail. They finally required me to go all the way back out to my car to bring back my photo id driver's license to gain admittance; I hadn't wanted to carry my wallet/license on the rides at the waterpark, so this was an irritant.

What can be done when a given person doesn't 'work' with a particular biometric technique, and is subjected to repeated hassles every time they 'fail' a scan? I fear for any biometric method there will be individuals the method won't work on, and these folks will be defacto suspect as a result.

Sent by Neil S. | 2:36 PM | 8-8-2007

The problem with identity is not that someone can impersonate you, but that there are companies who claim to be containing your identity in their databases. I'm over here, not locked in some building at Equifax or the FBI or something. The records they keep will, at best, be a distorted simulacrum of my real identity.

Sent by Jack Baker | 2:39 PM | 8-8-2007

Although I ducked into a store and missed part of today's conversation, will TON please balance this discussion with comments from someone not from the biometric industry or the military?

Biometric data might enhance our "freedom from", but what about our "freedom to"? When will getting in line "B" become a badge of suspicion because you didn't provide your fingerprints, retina scans, or DNA to the authorities? When government and business databases are chock full of personal identifiers and can track, catalog, and monitor your movements, purchases, decisions, and personal choices, then what does freedom actually mean?

As far as I heard, TON and its guests are waving the pom-pons for embracing a brave new world and redefinition of personal freedom and democratic society.

Sent by W. S. Kline | 2:49 PM | 8-8-2007

I think I feel old. Biomet favors the young that can have no ability.

What then when this vision of biometrics is online and all is seen with video recorders and stored on multiple databases that are proven as non-secure. I already know what it feels like to be on a airport suspect list with no ability to get a review process or ack.

And then after multiple Bushies, the system becomes too extreme and controls more than is currently. What avenue of decent would be allowed. How to get outside or inside of those controlling the system. Freedom needs a way to cut the cord, as the two party system does not allow it.

Sent by Rich Peet | 2:55 PM | 8-8-2007

I am a government employee and fly frequently out of Phoenix.
ANYTHING that will get me thru security
faster would be most welcome
I have nothing to hide.
Where do I apply??

Sent by Jeffrey A. Sharp | 1:17 AM | 8-9-2007

Welcome to Big Brother. This is nothing more than a tracking mechanism so the government can control are lives more. I don't have to have "anything to hide" in order to value my privacy. We are headed to a Nazi style "your papers please" society.

Sent by John Q Public | 11:04 AM | 8-10-2007

Supporters of biometrics continuosly fall back on the argument that finger printing and eye-scanning must be compulsory for all. In the UK the government continues to force in biometric surveillance by gradually restricting our ability to live our daily lives. The latest is the introduction of compulsory fingerprinting for flights through Heathrow Terminal 5; next is the compulsion to be entered on the biometric National Identity Register when you renew your passport. Despite 52% of the British population opposing a biometric identification system, the government continues to ride roughshod over the electorates wishes. This act in itself shows the major flaw of biometric technology - people will not take it up if given a free choice.
Similar to the abortion debate, biometrics are a pro-choice issue (as supported by Supporters of biometrics cannot argue that they provide greater freedom and security when implementing them violates others beliefs and rights.

Sent by Adam P | 4:23 AM | 3-8-2008

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