PRIVACY + SECURITY BLOG

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Biometric Privacy and the Titanic Phenomenon

Washington Post article discusses the growing use of biometric identification, which involves authenticating identity by using immutable characteristics of the human body.  Some methods include fingerprint readers, iris scanners, and facial recognition systems.  According to the article:

Three or four days a week, Darren Hiers gets lunch at a Sterling, Va., convenience store near the car dealership where he works. He grabs a chicken sandwich and a soda and heads to the checkout counter, where a little gadget scans his index finger and instantly deducts the money from his checking account.

Hiers doesn’t have to pull out his wallet to buy lunch — and if it were up to him, he’d never have to write a check or swipe a credit card again.

The finger scan used at the shop in Sterling, known as a biometric payment system and made by a Herndon, Va., firm, is just starting to be installed at convenience stores and supermarket chains around the country, another step in a revolution that is turning the human body into the ultimate identification card.

Already faces and fingerprints are used to track visitors coming into the country. Computer passwords are being replaced by thumbprints at some companies and iris scans are giving consumers in England and Germany access to their bank accounts at ATMs.

The owner of BioPay LLC, which makes the technology used at the store, predicts the finger scan soon will be ubiquitous, offering speed and convenience for consumers. But civil libertarians have raised privacy concerns, citing some recent problems. In February, ChoicePoint Inc., a background-screening company that collects personal information — including biometric data — said it accidentally sold more than 100,000 individual profiles to identity thieves. . . .

Biometric payment systems work by connecting images of an individual’s fingerprint to his bank account. At the Sterling convenience store, a BP gas station owned by Rich Gladu, users enroll by handing the cashier a personal check (verified with a driver’s license) that is scanned into the computer. Then they place each index finger on a tennis-ball-sized reader that captures the unique characteristics of their fingerprints.

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics.  This post was originally posted on his blog at LinkedIn, where Solove is a “LinkedIn Influencer.” His blog has more than 950,000 followers.

Privacy+Security ForumProfessor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz of the Privacy + Security Forum (Oct. 24-26, 2016 in Washington, DC), an annual event that aims to bridge the silos between privacy and security. 

If you are interested in privacy and data security issues, there are many great ways Professor Solove can help you stay informed:
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