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Crime.Justice & America - Blogs - Iris scanners scare the hell out of me...and it should you too!

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 Iris scanners scare the hell out of me...and it should you too!

Iris scanners scare the hell out of me...and it should you too!

by Ray Hrdlicka

Yeah….I don’t know about you, but the USA Today story about Homeland Security using iris scanners makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Why you ask? Well let’s see. The story is ostensibly about the use of these scanners at a Border Patrol Station in a two-week test, claiming its use is a quicker alternative to fingerprints. However, a couple of innocuous paragraphs, words, and privacy rights are the contentious issues that I am raising here…..

First, the use of iris scanners has been around for quite some time. A December 2007 USA Today article reports that more than 2,100 sheriff’s departments in 27 states are using iris scans to identify sex offenders, runaways, abducted children and wandering Alzheimer's patients by taking digital pictures of eyes and storing the information in databases that can be searched later. The article also reports at least 10 major cities are also scanning criminals. Okay…got it? It’s already happening……

Now even though that article is almost TWO YEARS old, two short paragraphs give a glimpse into the future and fast forward us to the present. One paragraph states the scanners are already “used by airports to expedite security checks of low-risk travelers and by the government to track possible terrorists”…..which on its face makes sense, right? The last two paragraphs report almost 2,000 scans are being added each week to the database (yeah, wanna bet that number has increased?)…….and a simple statement that future devices will be tested “that will allow it to scan a crowd and store iris data for many people at once.” George Orwell? Logans Run?

The recent article reports our military used iris scanners since 2007 to scan “thousands” of Iraqis “to track suspected militants”. Okay…if you take a moment and think about it, it’s a viable resource for a country that was wrenching itself out of the dark ages and into the present world. Given the violence and terror that was present, and setting aside any political commentary, I think it was a useful resource to increase security within that burgeoning society. The iris scanning technology was also used in 20 airports to allow people on the Registered Travelers list to exempt those long security lines. Hmmmm…..dangle a carrot in exchange for getting your iris scanned? You make the call…..

The problem I have is simple. The use of these scanners will be expanded in the name of the “peoples welfare” for purposes we have yet to fathom. Please note the next intended use as reported in the recent article. “Financial companies hope the scans can stop identity fraud……"Iris (technology) is going to completely reshape the fraud environment." Whoa….if the scanners will be used in all your purchases, what’s the next identification location or contact point? Building entries? Street corners? Your home? It’s a interesting concept for many uses UNTIL you start to think about WHO is going to be looking at your information and WHERE that information is located. Can’t happen…yeah. Note the comment that Homeland Security is testing cameras that scan as you walk by. Hmmmm, again.

Is it better than fingerprints? What’s the difference? Well, if you are required to provide your fingerprints, you know what is happening. If the iris scanner can work as you simply walk past, it is an action taken without your knowledge or approval. Big Brother? Science Fiction?

Let’s hope it just stays science fiction….

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