Thursday, March 6, 2008
'Data Snatchers' II
Biometrics. Get used to the word. It describes the technique of using a person's unique physical characteristics for identification. They can include fingerprints, voice and face recognition, and iris scans.
Biometrics is making news in Britain this week as the government rolls out its national ID cards. First up will be foreign citizens living in Britain who will begin carrying biometric ID cards by the fall. By next year, ID cards will be extended to those in sensitive government jobs, like those who work at airports. Next up will be students, all government workers, and on and on the list goes.
Europe is well on its way to implementing its own biometric data registration. Why is it so attractive to governments? British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith puts it this way;
“We will be able to better protect ourselves and our families against identity fraud, as well as protecting our communities against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. And it will help us to prove our identity in the course of our daily lives”
She adds that personal details of each person will be held separately from biometric data making it ‘incredibly difficult’ for anyone to steal another’s identity. But she didn't say it would be impossible. She works for the same government that lost computer discs with the personal banking details of more than 25 million British citizens last year, that admits that in January a stolen Ministry of Defence laptop contained the details of 600,000 people interested in joining the forces and that a computer disc marked "Home Office - confidential" turned up in a laptop purchased on eBay last month.
You’d be crazy not to ask yourself if we can trust these governments with biometric information.
Dr. Gus Hosein of Privacy International says flatly, you can't. Dr. Hosein points out politicians have put too much faith in biometric technology without exploring the real risk. He explains that even with biometrics it would still be possible to steal someone’s identity and finding and rectifying that crime would be much more difficult since biometrics are viewed as infallible. That does not even begin the cover the risks associated with keeping biometric data on one centralized data base and how vulnerable that information could be to abuse or negligence
Stay tuned. Biometrics is an emerging trend to watch, and an important debate to follow.
By Paula Newton, CNN’s International Security Correspondent.
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