This week, I gave a short presentation about biometrics to the Global Privacy Enforcement Network and, in particular, some of the privacy issues that arise when dealing with this emerging technology. I spoke briefly about how biometrics—the something that you are—is quickly gaining ground as being the favoured authentication method.
While it’s true that biometrics has been around for an eternity already, it’s the advent of new and cheaper ways of capturing this information that is making it attractive. And, to be clear, biometrics is being deployed by governments and the private-sector alike.
About a month ago, I was auditing an organization and, as part of the audit, we examined the physical safeguards used at the datacentre that stored the personal information. In order to gain entry into the datacentre, the company verified my government-issued id card (my driver’s license) and then had me enrol into their biometric system. This involved taking my fingerprint and weighing me. To gain entry into the building, I then had to present my fingerprint and stand on a scale. The door opened. To leave the building, I again had to present my fingerprint and stand on a scale. Presumably, if I was trying to walk out with one of the servers, I would weigh too much and I wouldn’t be allowed to leave.
It felt like I was in a Mission Impossible movie.
Speaking of movies, as part of my research for the speech on biometrics, I came across an article that spoke about a new technology that can scan your iris from a distance of two metres. Remind you of Minority Report?
My little foray into biometrics this week was fascinating and, as it turns out, timely. The news story that most grabbed my attention this week was the announcement from Jill Clayton that she was investigating how police in Alberta are now walking around with handheld devices that capture the image of your face and then use facial recognition software to match against mug-shot databases. It really is like living in a futuristic movie.
By the way, in case you missed it, late last Friday, the Supreme Court granted an extension of time to the Alberta government to fix its PIPA. Let’s see if they can get the job done within the next six months.
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