Americans Trust Biometric Security
Companies all over the world, including in the United States, are working with airports to provide expedited processing through airport security using biometric ID cards. Not only are travelers accepting it, they're seeking it out and paying for it. So this Orwellian technology everyone fears is suddenly wonderful if it saves 10 minutes at the airport. In fact, hundreds of companies are gathering biometric data as part of a broad range of goods and services that provide security, convenience or both.
Meanwhile, the FBI and other federal government agencies are building a huge database of biometric information -- pretty much whatever they can get their hands on. Not only are they seeking out fingerprint, iris and palm-print data, but also loading the database with photos in anticipation of future applications that can do face identification based on several pictures.
The State Department issues biometric passports. The documents themselves contain RFID chips that may contain retina or fingerprint data.
Has it occurred to anyone that government agencies could simply share the biometric data they have, and purchase biometric data from private companies -- then share them with other agencies, all stored in potentially hackable databases?
Let's review the situation. The American public mistrusts the idea of a national biometric ID card system because we're concerned about fraud and the loss of liberty. And because we don't move forward with a comprehensive, secure, protected system, we're instead ending up with a willy-nilly, third-rate, insecure de facto system based on social security cards and government agencies collecting the data from other sources without our knowledge or permission.
Let me state that even more starkly: It is precisely our opposition to biometric national ID that is giving us the worst possible biometric national ID system, with the most objectionable possible qualities.
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I have a proposal that might help. Why not use biometric data itself for biometric security? What if our greatest minds at MIT and other universities invented a system whereby one set of biometric security would be gathered -- say, face, fingerprints and voice -- and locked away in a very strongly encrypted database that could be unlocked only with another set of biometric security data -- say, iris and vein ID? It could be illegal to capture or store iris and vein data, which could be used only as "biometric passwords."
The idea would be to provide both government and private companies with all the benefits of a national biometric ID system, but that information could be accessed only with the permission of the user.
It's probably a bad idea, and I'm sure somebody will point that out. But I do know that "indolence" is a bad reason to sacrifice our security and liberty. Our national ID system is a mess, and we've got to fix it.
Happy independence day.