For access to a home or automobile, most people use a key. Access to accounts or transactions on the Internet usually requires a password. In the language of security specialists, these authentication schemes are referred to as using something that you have (a key) or something that you know (a password).
In some industries, a third method of identification is becoming more common: Using something that you are. This area of security and access is called ‘biometrics’. The word is derived from bio = body or biology and metrics = measurement.
The data center that houses computer servers for AWildDuck also houses valuable equipment and data for other organizations. When I visit to install a new router or tinker with my servers, I must first pass through a door that unlocks in the presence of my fob (a small radio-frequency ID tag on my key chain). But before I can get to the equipment cage that houses my servers, I must also identify myself by placing the palm of my hand on a scanner and speaking a code word into a microphone. I don’t know if my voice is identified as a biometric, but the use of a fob, a code word and a hand-scan demonstrates that the facility uses all three methods of identify me: Something that I have, something that I know and something that I am.
If you work with technology that is dangerous, secret, or that has investor involvement, then biometric identification or access seems reasonable. After all, something-that-you-are is harder to forge than something that you have. Because this technique is tied to part of your body, it also discourages the loaning of credentials to a spouse, friend, or blackmailer.
But up until now, biometric identification required the advance consent of the individuals identified. After all, before you can be admitted to a secure facility based on your hand print, you had to allow your hand to be scanned at some time in the past. This also suggests that you understood the legitimate goals of those needing your identification in the future.
Few Americans have been compelled to surrender their biometrics without advance consent. There are exceptions, of course. Rapists and individuals applying to live in the United States are routinely fingerprinted. Two very different demographics, and yet both are compelled to surrender a direct link to their genetic makeup. But until now, we have never seen a non-consenting and unsuspecting population subjected to wholesale cataloging of personal biometrics. Who wants all of this data? What could they do with it?
Here at AWildDuck, we have written about the dogged persistence of conservatives in the American government to seek a state of Total Information Awareness. But now, Uncle Sam is raising the stakes to a new low: The Dick Cheneys and Karl Roves aren’t satisfied with compiling and mining data from that which is online, such as phone books, Facebook data, company web sites, etc. They want access to as much personal and corporate data as they can get their hands on: Bank records, credit card receipts, tax returns, library borrowing records, personal email, entire phone conversations & fax images, and the GPS history logged by your mobile phone.
Perhaps even more creepy, is the recent authorization for the use of high altitude drones for domestic law enforcement. But wait! That development pales in comparison with a minor news bulletin today. The FBI has just funded a program of facial recognition. We’re not talking about identifying a repeat bank robber, a missing felon or an unauthorized entry across our borders. We are talking about scanning and parsing the entire population into a biometric fingerprint database. The project aims to cull and track facial images – and identify each one – from every Flickr account, every ATM machine, every 7-11…in fact, every single camera everywhere.
If you have a driver’s license, a Facebook account, or if you ever appeared in a college yearbook, it’s a certainty that you will soon surrender identifiable biometrics, just like a rapist or a registered alien. By 2014, we may arrive at 1984.
The one billion dollars set aside by the FBI for the facial recognition component of Project Über Awareness belies the truly invasive scope of body-cavity probing that the Yanks want to administer. The massively funded effort includes a data archival project buried within a Utah hill that is brain-seizing in size and scope. Forget about Tera, Peta and Exabytes. Think instead of Yotta, Zeta and Haliburtabytes.
Engadget is a popular web site that reviews and discusses high tech markets, media & gadgets. Below, they discuss the facial recognition component and its privacy implications. Just as with our past articles on this topic, Engadget begins with a still image from the ABC television series Person of Interest. The show depicts the same technology and it’s all encompassing power. Whomever controls it has the power to manipulate life. But unlike Mr. Finch, a fictional champion of stalked heroines, the Big Brother version is not compelled by a concern for individual safety and security. Instead, the US government is using the specter of terrorism and public safety to bring the entire world one giant leap closer to a police state.
Do we really want our government – any government – to know every detail about our daily lives? Does the goal of securing public safety mean that we must surrender our individual freedoms and privacy completely? Are individuals who don’t care about privacy absolutely certain that they will trust their governments for all time and under all circumstances? Do they expect that the data will never be breached or used for purposes that were not originally sanctioned or intended? Is anyone that naïve?
FBI rolls out $1 billion public face recognition system in 2014.
Big Brother will be on to your evildoing everywhere
Reprint: Engadget.com — By Jason Hidalgo, posted Sep 9th 2012