The Problem with Biometrics

#Privacy

Wed, May 21st, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

The New York Times looks at the growing business of biometrics, "using people’s unique physiological characteristics, like their fingerprint ridges and facial features, to learn or confirm their identity." While business is booming -- a whopping $7.2 billion were generated in 2012 alone -- its main pioneer is worried that "face-matching today could enable mass surveillance."

Now an industry consultant, Dr. Atick finds himself in a delicate position. While promoting and profiting from an industry that he helped foster, he also feels compelled to caution against its unfettered proliferation. He isn’t so much concerned about government agencies that use face recognition openly for specific purposes — for example, the many state motor vehicle departments that scan drivers’ faces as a way to prevent license duplications and fraud. Rather, what troubles him is the potential exploitation of face recognition to identify ordinary and unwitting citizens as they go about their lives in public. Online, we are all tracked. But to Dr. Atick, the street remains a haven, and he frets that he may have abetted a technology that could upend the social order.

Face-matching today could enable mass surveillance, “basically robbing everyone of their anonymity,” he says, and inhibit people’s normal behavior outside their homes. Pointing to the intelligence documents made public by Edward J. Snowden, he adds that once companies amass consumers’ facial data, government agencies might obtain access to it, too.

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