Nov 30, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


Donnia Zach
Williams, Katie Sullivan,

Sarah D’Orsie

The Superbowl Issue:

Privacy versus Security

Biometrics technologies use biological information like iris prints, facial features, vocal
s, and so on to identify people. Biometrics is best defined as measurable physiological
and/or behavioral characteristics that can be utilized to verify the identity of an individual. They
include fingerprints, retinal and iris scanning, hand geometry, voi
ce patterns, facial recognition
and other techniques. They are of interest in any area where it is important to verify the true
identity of an individual. Initially, these techniques were employed primarily in specialist high
security applications, however

we are now seeing their use and proposed use in a much broader
range of public facing situations.

Pervasive automatic face recognition could be used to track individuals wherever they go.
Systems operated by different organizations could easily be network
ed to cooperate in tracking
an individual from place to place, whether they know the person's identity or not, and they can
share whatever identities they do know. This tracking information could be used for many
purposes. At one end of the spectrum, the i
nformation could be leaked to criminals who want to
understand a prospective victim's travel patterns. Information routinely leaks from databases of
all sorts, and there is no reason to believe that tracking databases will be any different. But even
more i
nsidiously, tracking information can be used to exert social control. Individuals will be
less likely to contemplate public activities that offend powerful interests if they know that their
identity will be captured and relayed to anyone that wants to know

Among the many "biometric" identification technologies, face recognition requires the
least cooperation from the individual. Automatic fingerprint reading, by contrast, requires an
individual to press a finger against a machine. It will eventually be po
ssible to identify people by
the DNA
bearing cells that they leave behind, but that technology is a long way from becoming
ubiquitous. Organizations that have good reasons to identify individuals should employ whatever
technology has the least inherent pot
ential for abuse, yet very few identification technologies
have more potential for abuse than face recognition. Information from face recognition systems
is also easily combined with so
called location technologies such as the location tracking in cell
nes, thus further adding to the danger of abuse.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates are gravely concerned about the widespread
adoption of biometrics systems. Such a system could easily develop a database of known
dissidents, to be used for social cont
rol purposes. Without the effective regulation of this
industry, a significant number of individuals are going to suffer privacy violations, lost job
opportunities, and even discrimination.

In the 2000 Superbowl, for example, police used a primitive versi
on of biometrics to scan
the crowd for fans that have a history of criminal behavior or just disorderly behavior. Since
biometrics is still in its infant stages, police and security were only using face
techniques to ensure safety.

The controve
rsy that has been raised by the 2000 Superbowl is whether or not biometrics
is an invasion of privacy or an ingenious safety tactic. According to law enforcement agents and
other proponents of face scanning and other biometrics measures, this type of moni
toring is no
different than an officer to ask for identification upon entrance to the football stadium.
Proponents also argue that if there had been some sort of biometrics tactics in place in Logan
Airport in Boston, security officials could have prevent
ed the terrorists for boarding the airplanes
that hit the New York World Trade Center, thus preventing thousands of deaths.

However, on the other side of the privacy issue are those who believe that biometrics
takes law enforcement too far and is too much
an invasion of innocent citizens’ privacy. Many
argue that it is a violation of citizens’ civil liberties to have the police building databases on
people in order to monitor any potential criminal activity. In fact, in some cities such as
Baltimore, Mary
land, local police have installed cameras on top of light posts and buildings in
order to combat crime in certain parts of the city.

However, the aspect of biometrics that has most people up in arms is the future of such
intrusive law enforcement tactics
. Many believe that face scanning is just the beginning of much
more. It is feared that within the next fifty years government agencies will have the technology
to monitor every person with the touch of a button. And if the government is able to do such

extreme monitoring then the purpose of civil liberties will be lost because the government will
have taken them away, and all in the name of safety and security.

While safety is always a top priority for most Americans, especially after the September

terrorist attacks, it is now becoming evident that it comes with a price. Biometrics is
certainly a valuable tool that needs to be explored to combat crime, however, it needs to be
harnessed and limitations must be implemented in order to protect citiz
ens’ rights.