An article on CNN Money got me thinking about how close we really are to the technology in the movie Minority Report — racing ever faster to the loss of our freedoms and privacy in the name of security or ease of use, all thanks to some great advancement in technology.
Everyone has seen the high-tech eye scanner in movies, but now a North Carolina-based company (Eyelock) wants to help that technology become the new student ID and more. The company’s scanners are already in use in numerous locations such as airports, and Bank of America’s Charlotte headquarters. Eyelock has also entered into talks with Google, Stanley Security Solutions and many more to implement their Eyelock Products on an even larger scale.
Eyelock has also joined the FIDO (Fast Identity Online) Alliance. According to a press release on the company’s website, Eyelock will “help develop stronger and securer methods of authentication and interoperability for users of online services. Eyelock has joined such companies as Google, PayPal, Lenovo, NXP, Nok Nok Labs and Validity and others who are committed in identifying and coming up with a strategy to eliminate the consumers’ reliance on passwords.” In other words, it will be building a database in the cloud somewhere with a picture of your eyes and other information for use in verifying your identity.
In the CNNMoney article, Eyelock CMO Anthony Antolino said, “Imagine a world where you’re no longer reliant on user names and passwords.” He added, “If we’re going through a turnstile and you have authorization to go beyond that, it’ll open the turnstile for you. If you embed it into a tablet or PC, it will unlock your phone or your tablet or it will log you into your email account.” So if the turnstile doesn’t open, will I also have a Cylon detain me for questioning? But I digress.
Eyelock’s airport security technology can process up to 50 people per minute. “You walk through without stopping, you look at the camera, it recognizes you in less than one second,” Antolino said. “In the case of customs, by the time you approach the customs agent your profile would pull up and present your documents for authorization.” Admittedly, that is a lot faster than that TSA agent with a UV flashlight, but what is the trade-off?
Well, there is a lot of talk about that also along with the security of iris scanning in general. Iris-scanning companies note that the data their scanners collect is encrypted — an outsider would only see 1s and 0s if he went in search of your iris scans. Many of the companies themselves don’t collect any of the data, but the schools, airports and businesses that use them own the data, images and all other kinds of information stored on the users of the system. Think of the NSA and Verizon/ cell-phone metadata scandal … we all know how that goes.
I did not have to look too far to find another article on CNNMoney titled “Hackers’ next target: Your eyeballs.” Among the many things discussed in the article, one them is how a man and his research team can build an iris template and use it to hack into an iris scanners system with an 87 percent success rate using a little bit of programming along with images and data publicly found on Facebook or the web.
As an admitted geek, there are some really cool things that are possible in the days ahead with iris printing, facial recognition, and other types of technology using biometrics for identification. I have no doubt that it will indeed make some things easier if not outright fun! I look forward to the day when I walk into my house and all sorts of things happen just because my house recognizes who I am. Eyelock has a few videos here that barely scratch the surface of possibilities.
But Eyelock is entering the school market, testing their devices in elementary school districts and even nursery schools around the country. The company is breaking ground into world of amazing new possibilities. Eyelock officials promise ease of use, perhaps a simpler more integrated life, enhanced safety and security, for the parents, teachers, and students, but are we really learning about us the loss of freedom and privacy along the way? Do we really want that kind of information out there for thieves or a government agency to grab?
I’m no “precog” but I see iris and facial recognition-based advertising billboards, TVs and more coming to a street or a school or store near you, not to mention a whole new form of EYEdenity theft.