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Liberty, Security And Biometrics

Liberty, security, and biometrics. Eye scans, facial recognition systems. Police and more are using them. We’ll look at the stakes.

The U.S. military has been gathering biometric information for years. Here they are gathered in Iraq. Now, police departments are getting the same technology. (AP)

The U.S. military has been gathering biometric information for years. Here they are gathered in Iraq. Now, police departments are getting the same technology. (AP)

The next tool in the American police tool belt is a game changer.

A little bit of technology that plugs into an iPhone. It can capture an image of your face. It can scan the pattern of your eyeballs. It will remember forever. And it can track you anywhere.

It’s called the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System.

Biometrics. American troops have used it all over Iraq and Afghanistan, to ID enemies.

Now it’s coming home. Facial recognition. Iris scans. Sounds like Minority Report. And it’s not just police. Facebook is in the game.

This hour On Point: the age of biometrics.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Julia Angwin, senior technology editor, Wall Street Journal

Daniel Castro, senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Orin Kerr, professor of law at the George Washington University Law School

Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author of “Program or Be Programmed

From Tom’s Reading List:

More:

Here’s Douglas Rushkoff talking about the digital future.
http://youtu.be/kgicuytCkoY

Here’s a commercial from a firm making biometrics scanner for police forces.

http://youtu.be/uS1ZOkbqzhg

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  • RMGuy

    I hope that’s Marcus Bachmann in the 2nd video.  Maybe it can be used to put down a baseline on his batsh!t wife.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    nocomment

  • Michael

    Just one more step for the coming police state. Once they figure out a way totally outlaw filming police officers.

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

    • Anonymous

      Coming police state? With all due respect I would say it’s here.
      Have you not noticed how many small police departments now have SWAT teams? There is no such thing as public protest anymore.
      Now the police and cities designate “special” areas of protest in the guise of crowd control if it’s a large event, such as the last convention for the Democratic party here in Boston. They even tried to arrest Ralph Nadar. I mean come on Ralph Nadar?

      • Peter (Boston area)

        On Point appeals primarily to people who have no experience of inner city police tactics viv-a-vis minorities.  These officers have a tough job, drugs being one of the few viable income sources in poor communities, but the cops do a lot of gratuitous head-banging to “instill respect,” which makes it unlikely that youths will demand their rights.  My fear is that one of these iris-scanning cops will single out from a group of potential suspects an individual whose scan reveals a criminal record, and that this prejudicial information will put the wrong person in court, and possibly prison.  Don’t we lock up enough poor people already?   

  • Michael

    How Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on UN leaders

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333920/WikiLeaks-Hillary-Clinton-ordered-U-S-diplomats-spy-UN-leaders.html

    Hillary Clinton ordered American officials to spy on high
    ranking UN diplomats, including British representatives.

    Top secret cables revealed that Mrs Clinton, the Secretary
    of State, even ordered diplomats to obtain DNA data – including iris scans and
    fingerprints – as well as credit card and frequent flier numbers.

    All permanent members of the security council – including
    Russia, China, France and the UK – were targeted by the secret spying mission,
    as well as the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon.

    How does she not get in trouble for this?

    • Terry Tree Tree

           Although technically illegal, it is common practice among many of the entities you listed.  The lack of a U.S. Intelligence Gathering organization (spies), prior to 1940, left this country vulnerable, and ignorant to a lot of the dangers of the rest of the world.
           It also left us at the mercy of Corporations that used the U.S. millitary, for their own benefit, to the detriment of U.S. interests, and ideals!

  • Terry Tree Tree

    George Orwell warned about this in “1984″, about Communism, that he had tried and left.  He was warning about the Soviet Union, set in Britain, but it is coming to all countries that do not stop it!!  The LUST for power again.  Root of all evil?  Money is just one form of power.  ANY good idea, or thing of any kind can be twisted to evil.

  • AC

    This may be generational, but it seems younger people don’t really have the same viewpoint of ‘privacy’ & ‘civil liberties’ as some of the more dire/cynical viewpoints I bet this topic will generate.
    Between location/tracking devices used by parents to monitor everything from location, to what they’re buying at school for lunch, to how they’re driving, and then to self-(?exploitation?) on FB & social media, I’d say they’re already conditioned to it, or maybe what’s happening is they live openly? Personally, I’m so boring, I don’t care either who’s tracking me (have fun w/that!!)
    HOWEVER, I do totally understand that this does reduce the power of the individual as well.
    Still, I have faith that there are always those, passionate enough that learn how to use the ‘system’ against those that abuse it, and, the flip side that it leaves less room for wrong-doing (see Britian phone hacking scandal, Weiner debacle, Wikileaks?) – can’t hide anywhere anymore….. 

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Name something that CANNOT  be used for good or for evil, please.  Most of these things have been used for both, for decades.  There were schemes to clone Hitler. 
         Not only can anything be used for good or evil, but anything can be represented as what it is NOT.  For great examples of that , listen to the rants of the career-drug-addict, and four-times-divorced lead-ranter of Fox News.  If he is worth $100 Million to Fox, I should be worth $ten Billion! 

  • Anonymous

    This is an interesting quandry that we will find ourselves in as a global society in the future. Where does citizenship begin and end? Who has the rights to your image, identity or reputation (being charged with a crime and tried in the media) and what happens when technology supercedes our civil liberties? http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/07/skin-deep-security.html

  • Lee

    Same old story, biometrics began with the fingerpint and rose along side the field of statistics. Back then, people were as willing to share their personal info with the state with regards to their family characteristics. Surely it depended upon those with a high regard for themselves.

     Most of us will probably come into contact with biometrics in our low wage, low skill workplaces. I think the danger is when you have law enforcement/ employers & corporations all working together. Though some bad guys may be caught in the net,  guarenteed  biometrics will be used  to trick consumers into thinking they are buying cruelty-free products.

    Labor activists should start developing biometric databases for employers who use slave labor to make their products. Inside each product could be a secrently implanted chip that you can scan and it will pull up a picture of the face and the home and the wage of the person who made it.

    • Lee

      Oh, and this secretly implanted chip should also include a picture of the face, name, home(s), and salary of the ceo of the company that hired the worker who made the product. This picture should be placed side-by-side by the worker who created the product.

  • Lee

    And then all these biometric scans of workers can form a kind of digital tree around the ceo. So that their identities are forever linked to him.

  • anonymous

    Uhm, No Thank you!

  • Cory

    My employer just started differentiating insurance rates between tobacco and non-tobacco users.  An online employee forum was available for responses.  A very common response was that the obese should also be targeted for higher insurance rates.

    This example shows a few things about us.  First, it show how easily divided we are.  Many of us will sell our neighbors, co-workers, or souls for a few bucks.

    It also shows how we are incapable of seeing the bigger picture.  How about higher insurance rates for those with a family history of diabetes?  Grandpa had prostate cancer?  That’ll put you in a different rate class.  Wait until they offer a discount for access to our individual genomes.  I once had a boss with a heavy Italian accent.  He was fond of saying at times like this “We are all just stupid.”  I couldn’t agree with him more. 

    • Ruth Baker

      Nicely said!!

  • Bill

    Whatever can be used, can be misused. I’m sure that agents walking through lawful protests and photographing and filing everyone there will become commonplace.

    And given general society’s assumption that the computer is always right, we’re sure to see some tragic stories resulting from incorrect identifications.

  • Anonymous

    Time to buy a burqa. 

    • AC

      hee hee!

    • Ruth Baker

      Niiicceee!!

  • David

    Another step in the dismantling of our constitutional rights.

  • ymc

    As an immigrant who went through various stages of getting a green card, I’ve had my biometrics taken at least four times that I can recall, once per application for change in status (student visa -> application for permanent residence -> application to change temporary green card to permanent green card, etc etc.); and I’ve had to pay $85 for the privilege each time (the biometrics fee is not included in the application costs, naturally).

    It is not something that I have had a choice about.

  • Bill

    Private sector will go nuts over this as it becomes cost effective to do so. There’s big money in information mining, just look at facebook. And in detecting and preventing identity fraud. To be able to track where you are, where you go, what you buy and market that information.

    We may end up in a situation where the government doesn’t need to do this, they’ll just line up with the private sector and buy the information there.

  • Marksrogers_1999

    What about the health information that is contained in the iris and sclera.  I thought this information would be protected under HIPA.  Alternativer medicine uses patterns in the iris and sclera to diagnose cause and effect health issues.

  • Bill

    Imagine as you are walking out of a store after not making a purchase and getting an “instant coupon if you come back now” sent to you on your Iphone – that’s where are headed.

  • Mike W.

    Sounds like Nina has nothing to hide, but would she willingly give up for spam email, unsolicited calls, perhaps she’d even give up her mother’s maiden name or better yet, her SS number.  Sure, you can assume that data security will be a top consideration.  But I’m sure large data-sensitive companies like Lockheed Martin didn’t think they’d be susceptible to hacking.

    • http://www.jobwaltz.com JobWaltz.com

      Her faith in the police state is dangerous. Ben Franklin said it best “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

      Ready to find a new job or change careers?  Visit http://www.jobwaltz.com for premium job search assistance.

  • Anonymous

    This guy is correct. There is no law saying that not only government, but private industry cannot track you, especially online: http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/07/welcome-to-machine-online-data-tracking.html

  • Ellis

    Tracking can itself be a form of intimidation.  Think J. Edgar Hoover.

    • Ruth Baker

      Absolutely!!!

  • Mark

    Tom,
     
    Biometrics is not new.  It has been used as an authentication option for years.  In fact the Defense Enrollment Eligibility System (DEERS) has been using it for years.  Literally millions of citizens in the military, intelligence community and other highly sensitive positions in corporate America already have their information in these data bases.  We should ALSO be asking the question of who controls those databases and what are the rules governing such control.  We can’t even get to the questions surrounding conditions under which citizens would be placed in theses databases (Biometric scans) until we can adequately answer the questions surrounding management and control of the databases. 

  • Hmyers999

    Without a doubt the “I didn’t do anything wrong, so let’s have this technology widely used” scares me beyond belief. How can people so easily forget the law is made by powerful interests who can change the definition of wrong at a whim. Just look at the 1st Amendment. Corporations are allowed to spend endless amounts of money for political gains, while citizens are told when are where they are allowed to practice their RIGHT of free speech. We are told over and over protesting is wrong. People are already arrested for it.
    At a time when the founding fathers are cited over and over again one should remember Ben Franklin’s statement, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Liberty trumps all, left or right, we should agree on that.  

    • Ruth Baker

      You are so right- amazing how ignorant some people are.  (So many don’t even know that there is a “9th” Ammendment.)
      What also is not said, is that, as you point out, that the “interpretation of the law” changes, depending on the whim of the powerful, and since we now have a very right wing SC , they will, most likely vote in favor of the gov’t and corporations making this technology.  (Think M. Chertoff scanners).
      And as we “older”, more educated/non -accepting people get older or die, the younger, more accepting, ignorant poeple will replace us and change the culture – as you point out so well.   

    • Charleston SC Listener

      Well, we could start with Supreme Court decisions in answering the question you pose . . . .

  • Bill

    If banks got into selling this information, ATM’s would provide a place to collect tens of millions of faces every month.

    • Bill

      More than faces – they are all tied to card identified identities

  • Sam

    Those special border rules apply anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

  • Sl_alexander

    Your passport, your driver’s license and student id all have your photograph on them and so now that newer technology allows for increased definition and better usage through iris or facial recognition what the big deal. Your fungible social security number is used by many as positive id, your readable pass code can be hacked so I see my eyeballs as a secure means of positive identification.
    I fear more being hacked with current means of id than using my eyeball and as to intrusion of my privacy this is less so than current TSA practice. 

  • Cory

    I used to think the George Orwell type stuff was just a paranoid exageration.

  • Mrmm

    My concern on this issue is with identity theft. With huge databases of information would it be possible for someone, who  closely matches your profile, to assume your identity? My question is, could someone technically sophistication, search the data base for people who closely match their profile, and use this information for illegal activity?

  • Anonymous

    Douglas Rushkoff is my favorite media scholar! I trust him emphatically in all matters media related! What a treat.

    • Ruth Baker

      Huh????  He’s a clown !!!!  don’t get me started, on this sleaze!!

  • CondaLIkLik

    There is a strange symmetry in law-abiding citizens not wanting to be randomly identified, because sometime they may need security, and the person of average income level not wanting the rich to be taxed because someday they may be a billionaire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    If we redefine privacy doesn’t that mean we must rewrite the 4th amendment, too? Any suggestions for a draft? Something like: citizens shall have NO privacy, maybe, and cops can snoop on anybody just ‘cos they have the funding to do it. sound right to you?

  • Tina

    Hi, everybody.  I missed all but these last ten minutes of this show, but I do have a question.  I asked my eye doctor why my eyes seemed to be closer together than when I was young.  He said that there are fat pads behind our eyes, and (rather perversely), this is an area where we can LOSE fat over the decades.  When I look at photos of myself when I was nineteen, my eyes were much more rounded; whereas, recently, they are extremely deep set — which fits with my doctor’s explanation for my eyes ALSO seeming to move toward each other.  My question is this:  does the retina scan look at the distance between the two eyes?  If so, HOW can accuracy be assured over time given what my doctor said about just this one aspect of the physiological nature of aging?  That is truly a QUESTION:  HOW does the system work in the context of changes due to aging?  Also, I see that the photo, above, only records ONE eye, so perhaps the distance between eyes is NOT a feature of this system?  I apologize if the show covered this, & I missed it, but I probably won’t have a chance to listen to the podcast anytime soon, so I thought I’d ask these questions.  Thanks!

  • SprakNoFat

    The guest that thought this is all just practice for knowing everything about everyone all the time, was totally squirrely. I would love for him to be able to read my mind. I think he would experience the apperceptive equivalent of the culture shock.  He obviously does not realize that what one can know about a person via twitter is not really much worth knowing, unless you consider an endless repetition of the trivial as somehow obversely profound. I know for a fact that the majority of people mistake an infinite regression of reflective two dimensional surfaces as deep reflection. (Yes that is a metawhore)

    • Ruth Bkaer

      What I thought, too.  Perhaps he’s defending technology because, he’s got shares in many of those companies and cares more about money than freedom.

    • Muddy

      It’s not that some agency knows everything about an individual, but rather that it thinks they fit some kind of profile.  The other day, I Googled ‘Nazi war posters’ … does that make me a sympathizer?

  • Wardj

    I was again struck by the comments of one listener who expressed a common thought that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. I had an experience some twenty years ago when I was working as a volunteer rape counsellor and who regularly was wire tapped. The worst was a male victim who was a member of the military and whose naval career was in jeopardy as this was before DADT. I do not know whether it was done by the US government or just the local sheriff’s office, but it was noticeable and served to make counselling very difficult. So… the takeaway is not that one may do something wrong, just that right and wrong is open to interpretation and the right thing to do may not be straightforward. In the meantime, the powers that be made it impossible to give help or closure certainly to this one victim. To exprapolate that thought, how will this monitoring impede our ability as a society to talk things through without involving the security aparatus? A simple and necessary prerequisite to maintain our collective sanity!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      Well stated. File under: No good deed shall go unpunished. Will we have good-deed prosecutions  – witch hunts for entertainment purposes- based on the captured data?  Whooop-dee-doo, it’s a great diversion from a rapidly crumbling empire. Romanesque, in fact.

  • Muddy

    Yesterday I had dinner with an American who has worked in China as a recruiter for the US college where he works.  He said that in China teachers have often been reluctant to commit student recommendations to paper, probably because students are expected to return to China, and sometimes they don’t.  If a well-connected student can produce a family photo album showing images of his/her family in the company of someone in the political or economic elite (the bureaucrats know who those folks are), the paperwork for an exit visa is expedited.

    Most Americans are unaware of how intrusive surveillance has been in countries more authoritarian that this one. Cameras aren’t needed, just a neighborhood snitch with instructions about who to report, and a morals police to punish the offenders, as in Iran.

    A phrase comes to mind: Who watches the watchers?

  • Charleston SC Listener

    The most important statement was made by Mr. Kershoff, who is agonizingly correct in stating that it will require a far higher level of political awareness and involvement to bring any meaningful, “before-the-fact” of privacy violation, regulation at all to bear on the destruction of our individual privacy, anonymity and — as he suggested at the end of the show — individuality.
    Why did no one call in who had been victimized by this phenomenon, for example the post-911 “Justice Letters” victims (it was not facial recognition in these cases, but other equally circumstantial evidence)?The straightforward answer is that no one who has been through this byzantine brand of “gray” government procedure would ever remotely risk a recurrence of the same thing.  I’m talking about a level of personal harassment — physical, psychological, legal, you name it — that few of us would imagine goes on outside, let alone within, the United States.The fact is that, when technology is used in law enforcement, there are many “false positives.”  Most people in law enforcement care about and observe individual protections.  But the minority who act heedlessly is highly significant.  If you believe you have nothing to lose in this, I will suggest that you need to pay much closer attention.  (Bear in mind that just yesterday even so knowledgable a person as Mr. Rupert Murdoch stated that he “could not imagine” journalisting eavesdropping having occurred in the U.S!)Government has not seriously seized upon these issues for two reasons: first, it is the primary practitioner and often the primum mobile behind development of these technology tools. Second, I genuinely believe that no official of any standing who has given the matter due consideration, believes that there is any meaningful way to regulate in this area.Soon enough it will no longer be government but — thank you Mr. Orwell — corporations that will govern.  Period.  Starting with surveillance, and eventually in every nook and cranny of our lives, corporate governance will truly become far worse than our “Big Brother.”  We’ll all be living under the iron thumb of Nurse Ratched on steroids, on a global scale.  I believe, quite reasonable from what I see, hear, and have discussed, that this is a scenario that will come to pass in the next five decades.The one constant in development of technology is that, if a thing is capable of being accomplished, it WILL be accomplished with almost total disregard for ethical or even moral considerations.  We will continue occasionally to read about the “occasional, unlucky” victims of overenthusiastic technology application … but we will never be permitted to know the full scope of past, present and potential abuse.

    If we do not wish to live in a (literally!) “single-minded” world, this is a concern that needs to be taken seriously.  And it will certainly not be Washington that will lead the way.

  • GMG

    The more I hear about stuff like this, along with some of the recent developments in biotechnology and our impacts on the climate, the less convinced I am that our recent technological inventions add up to progress.  On the contrary, we seem to just be adding all these clever things to our lives to the detriment of our planet and our long-term well-being.  

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  • http://www.facebook.com/d0job.Knows Dan Joy

    State police officers have a license plate SCANNER, which triggers a flag on their dashboard if the operator of the vehicle has any restrictions on their license.

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  • Jim

    Fascist Police State of America.

  • Phyllis

    This is definitely off the subject, but I’ve been wanting to comment on this, and it sounds as if this is the place to do it if you want it to be read.  Has anybody else noticed how frequently people now begin their answers to the host’s questions with the word “So”?  In circumstances where it adds nothing to the meaning of their response, that is.  I’ve noticed it frequently on “On Point” as well as other NPR programs, such as “Science Friday.”  The folks being interviewed tend to be younger and generally bright and well-spoken.  Perhaps it’s just a nervous habit to buy a few seconds of time, but it’s somewhat irritating.

    • Muddy

      Thanks for pointing out this annoying replacement for the word “like,” which seems to act as a cue that you should remove your headphones or earbuds and pay attention to the speaker.

  • Renee

    Of course there is already evidence we are moving to a police state. Tom, did you not see the article in the globe the other day about the guy who is sueing the Registry of Motor Vehicles? I was shocked to learn of their abuses… they use face recognition software to revoke the licenses of 1500 Massachusetts citizens every day to prevent fraud and fight identitiy theft. But their process is trampling on people’s rights. First you are deemed guilty before it has even been established you have commited a crime… the ony crime you may have commited is that you have similar features and characteristics of someone who may be a criminal. Second, the presumption of guilt and thereby issueing punishment places the burden on the accused to prove they are innocent, as opposed to the state having to prove guilt, which denies due process. The Registry is unsympathetic to the victims of this, making them jump through hoops over the course of weeks to prove their identity and all the while there are real economic consequences and hardships for the individual who can not drive during this time. I hope the guy wins his lawsuit and that the result brings the Registry under the same rule of law the police have to operate under.

  • http://www.delicious.com/nicholasdunn62 Colleen Clark

    this is quite nice videos.  Videos are always great to learn more.

  • http://www.jobwaltz.com JobWaltz.com

    Simple solution to avoid the “Minority Report” situation of being tracked by your eye signature; just wear glasses or contacts that mask your iris. I am sure that clever entrepreneurs figure out ways to help us manage our biometric profile.

    Ready to find a new job or change careers?  Visit http://www.jobwaltz.com for premium job search assistance.

  • John T.

    Young people, who think this type of personal invasion is OK,
    assume they will not be on the bad side of this loss of privacy. Sometimes, one
    needs to experience the total loss of normalcy and control that comes the miss
    use of these technologies, or from being mistaken for someone else, before you
    might think differently.

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  • Anonymous

    As our generation looks back and cannot imagine a world without computers and cell phones, the newer “facebook” generation will never know the sanctity of personal ambiguity or privacy.  Soon, you will no longer be able to join a faceless mass of protesters or sneak off and do something “slightly” illegal but harmless.  

    How long before parents, wives, etc. are able to essentially track your every move.  I suppose I have an “old” mind-set and prefer to remain somewhat anonymous in most cases.  You can check out a nice summary of Tom’s awesome interviews here http://www.thinkonthat.com/archives/920.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeanine-Molloff/1025476366 Jeanine Molloff

    I now KNOW that our military brass and our police are VILE PIGS.   THEY HAVE NO DAMN RIGHT TO DO THIS!  So, now we pay their salaries AND we’re the enemy?!  This amounts to a clear constitutional violation as an illegal search.  I don’t give a crap what the supreme hypocrites of the supreme court say as they have obviously whored themselves to corporate fascists since they declared George W. Bush to be the King …I mean President.. even though HE WAS NEVER ELECTED.  I WILL NOT OBEY AND IF FACED WITH THIS VILE DEVICE WILL SUE THE DAMN POLICE PIGS USING IT.  WE DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THIS. As for the FBI and CIA they can FXXK XFF!

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