Feedback: Biometrics and Privacy, Love Letters

Listeners write in about biometrics, plagiarism, and a love letter on Valentine's Day.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails.

Last week, we discussed new identification technology, such as fingerprint scanning, after the British parliament approved the use of biometric data on national identity cards.

Norman Latelle(ph), of Berkeley, California, works for a company that experimented with fingerprint scanning to authorize credit card transactions a few years ago. He wrote: "Employees first registered their fingerprints and credit card data at the cafeteria's customer service counter. Then, when they went to pay for lunch, they entered their phone office extension into the cashier's terminal, which also scanned their fingerprint and compared it with the cafeteria's local fingerprint database.

If it all matched, the transaction was immediately accepted. But, he continued, the terminal had to be cleaned almost every five minutes, because people got so much oil and food particles on their hands, that the terminal quickly began misreading the fingerprints. Overall, it was not clear that there was any net improvement in transaction time, given how often the terminals needed to be cleaned."

Our program on cut and paste plagiarism prompted Mary Knoll(ph), a high school teacher on Long Island in New York, to write: "I checked the work of my students over the weekend, and then on Monday, told them that one of them had plagiarized the rough draft of their paper. I then requested that the plagiarist write me an apology, and that the rest of the class tell me what they were going to be doing that weekend.

I collected all the papers and looked them over while the class read the guidelines for writing papers and avoiding plagiarism that our English department compiled. Lo and behold," she continued, "I had really only caught one student in outright cut and paste plagiarism, but four other students confessed. I was able to meet with each plagiarist individually. Their final papers were the better for it, and they all thanked me for helping them to avoid potential public embarrassment."

And, finally, Elizabeth VanCleave(ph), of Jeffersonville, Indiana wrote to us about our letter segment last week, which happened to fall on Valentine's Day. "As I was driving home," she wrote, "I was listening to your show when you started playing Almost in Your Arms, by Sam Cooke. I was hoping my husband was on his way home, also, and listening to the same song. I pulled into the driveway and there we both sat listening to Almost in Your Arms with only the cars between us, singing to each other. After the song, we just stood there in the driveway holding on to each other. It was the best Valentine's gift a girl could have, finally, in each other's arms."

If you comments, questions, or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is talk@npr.org. Please tell us where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

And hey, this goes out to our friends in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

(Soundbite of "Almost in Your Arms", by Sam Cooke)

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