Problem

Compulsory use of biometrics

Nature:
Compulsory taking of personal physical characteristics, often for permanent filing, including blood and DNA samples, to keep track of an individual's identity, movement, medical conditions etc.
Background:
Biometrics is the process of collecting, processing and storing details of a person's physical characteristics for the purpose of identification and authentication. The most popular forms of biometric ID are retina scans, hand geometry, thumb scans, finger prints, voice recognition, and digitized (electronically stored) photographs. The technology has gained the interest of governments and companies because unlike other forms of ID such as cards or papers, it has the capacity to accurately and intimately identify the target subject.
Incidence:
Biometrics schemes are being implemented across the world. Spain has commenced a national fingerprint system for unemployment benefit and healthcare entitlement. Russia has announced plans for a national electronic fingerprint system for banks. Jamaicans are required to scan their thumbs into a database before qualifying to vote at elections. In France and Germany, tests are under way with equipment that puts fingerprint information onto credit cards. The technology is being used in retail outlets, government agencies, child care centers, police forces and automated-teller machines.

An automated immigration system developed by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) uses hand geometry. In this project, frequent travellers have their hand geometry stored in a "smart" computer chip card. The traveller places a hand onto a scanner, and places the card into a slot. More than 70,000 people have enrolled in the trial. The scheme may ultimately result in a worldwide identification system for travellers.

The most controversial form of biometrics -- DNA identification -- is benefiting from new scanning technology which can automatically match DNA samples against a large database in minutes. Police forces in several countries such as the USA, Germany and Canada are creating national databases of DNA. In the United Kingdom and the USA, police have been demanding that all individuals in a particular area voluntarily provide samples or face being placed under scrutiny as a suspect.

Related Problems:
Misuse of video surveillance
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET