Under the title of "The Price of Freedom Requires Eternal Vigilance," this article in today’s Washington Post caught my eye. We’ve been facing the issues of personal privacy for some time; the notion that the FBI is spending $1 billion to build a database of personal biometrics is, in a word, frightening.
Ostensibly, the intent of this massive effort is to assist in the identification and capture of criminals, but this also provides the US government unprecedented ability to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Opponents of the initiative cite the fact that the increasing use of biometrics raises worry that such measures become a "de-facto" national identity card, thus making more and more difficult for citizens to avoid unwanted scrutiny.
This biometric information includes not only finger/palm prints, but irises, faces, and soon DNA. DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, has been using iris recognition to verify identity of persons wanting to move quickly through lines at some airports.
Though this information is currently being collected through direct interaction of the individuals from whom the data are collected, researchers at the FBI’s biometric facility are working on capturing this biometric information covertly. Though several years away, this ability is of great interest to government agencies.
One of the biggest concerns made by skeptics is that such projects are proceeding before there is reliability in matching suspects against the enormous amount of data collected. In one of the world’s first large-scale study on the reliability of this technology, the German government used face recognition to identify people between October 2006 and January 2007. The technology proved reliable 60% of the time under the best daylight conditions but fell to between 10 and 20% at night.
The long term goal is "ubiquitous use" of this recognition technology, where individuals will have biometrics captured without ever having to step up to a kiosk and looking in to a camera.
I’m ready for my close up Mr. Demille…