Lately, I've run across a few articles on biometrics. It's a relatively new technology that uses the body to identify people. There are eye scans, fingerprint devices and facial scans which are used to identify a person.
There seems to be two camps forming. One camp hails from the security sector. These people are overwhelmed and screaming for help. It's hard to blame them. Keeping us safe in these trying times is a very tall order. The threats are vague and the stakes are high. Any large gathering is a potential target. Eliminating crowds means the terrorists "win" and allowing crowds creates a target. So how do you sift through large crowds and pick out the "bad guys" and eliminate them from the group before they cause harm? [especially within the context of a society that believes 'innocent until proven guilty'...] It was much easier when the list of "bad guys" was much smaller. Now there are more. Many more. And they don't want to just pick your pocket. They want to kill us. All of us. Small wonder that the security folks are wishing for a magic wand to help sort out the good from the bad.
The other camp that seems to be forming centers around those who want to protect our civil liberties. We've fought long and hard to win those liberties. And the good people should not be treated like criminals. We've done nothing wrong, and if we give up all our freedoms - well, the terrorists "win." And who's to say that if we do give up a little liberty to insure our safety...that perhaps one day it may be turned against us. The same laws and techniques developed to hunt down terrorists could one day be used to hunt down homosexuals... or drug users... or political rivals...
I don't fear cops. I have no reason for such a fear - I follow the law. And I know that in our present state, since I _am_ a law-abiding citizen, I will be treated as such and afforded all the rights, benefits and honors bestowed on the citizenry. However, I deal daily with new technologies. I know how technology on the cutting edge (often called the bleeding edge) can be buggy and cause more problems than it solves. I also know how difficult it is for the end user to adapt to new technology. There's quite a learning curve and only the most dedicated plow through it to mastery.
The biometrics technologies currently being "field tested" can be applied in two ways. One way is to use it to identify a person for access to a system (like a username/password logon). The other way is to identify a known criminal within a crowd of people. The technology is too new and too inaccurate to be useful in the physical security realm. With Information Security, you have a system administrator to assist in the process. If the technology denies an authorized user, the sysadmin can take steps to assist the user. If the technology allows an unauthorized user, the sysadmin can (hopefully) use available intrusion detection systems to detect the anomaly and alert the appropriate people. [Such as a user logging on to a system at an odd hour of the evening or while they're on vacation...] There isn't the same "wiggle room" for the physical security field. If the system doesn't detect a terrorist, lives could be lost. If the system identifies an innocent person as a known terrorist, I'm not confident that the person could ever clear their name. Between the media frenzy and the zeal of the security forces, it would be an uphill climb to reclaim your life and exonerate yourself.
There is no magic wand. I wish there was. And I can only hope I don't look too much like anyone else...
Posted by BlueWolf on September 25, 2002 10:04 PM