One of the keys to effective security is keeping human intelligence in the loop. Ann Cavoukian,
author of Who Knows: Safeguarding Your Privacy in a Networked World, and the Ontario
Information and Privacy Commissioner, has said that we must "guard against an over-reliance on
technology’. She goes on to say:
“Internet wiretaps, monitoring systems and the deployment of biometrics may assist law
enforcement officials, but they cannot replace the human element that is an essential component
of effective intelligence. Indeed, many have argued that our over-reliance on electronic forms of
intelligence has actually contributed to the problems we now face, resulting in the under-
deployment of other much-needed forms of intelligence such as human intelligence.” (CBC,
September 21, 2001).
Biometric security should be seen as an extension of human intelligence, and not as a
replacement for it, because automated security will only be as good as the human intelligence
that backs it up. A person can be who he or she claims to be and still be a suicide terrorist. For
any security system to be effective, it must first have the intelligence that identifies the person
as a potential threat.
The danger of relying too heavily on technology is nowhere more real than in the area of
biometric surveillance. Such surveillance is most effective if the people you are trying to locate
are not aware of its use. However, such discreet surveillance runs counter to public sentiment.
Even if you post notices to inform the public that they are being scanned, privacy advocates will
complain (perhaps with reason) that their privacy is being invaded. What constitutes a reasonable
expectation of privacy? It is difficult to formulate a universally acceptable answer to this question.
The truth is that biometric surveillance, while creating a major public relations nightmare,
provides only a slight enhancement to security. If you are introducing a real or perceived
limitation of the public's privacy, you should ensure that the benefits far outweigh the negative
press you will receive.
Audit trails left by an individual as he or she uses airports, car rentals, and any other services
that require biometric authentication (i.e., possibly any activity that requires the use of a credit
card, driver's license, passport, or any other major form of identification) could become a
significant contribution to intelligence systems. For example, an intelligent, automated database
system could send an alert to appropriate authorities if it detects a number of suspect individuals
who show up in the same city at the same time.
The Place of Biometrics
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Canada L7R 2M8
Biometrics as an Enabling Technology
The key to this use of biometric authentication lies in the development of comprehensive,
shared, intelligent, watch list databases. Such databases would be repositories for both
automatically gathered intelligence and human intelligence. While the development of such
databases with “data mining” capabilities is outside the immediate scope of biometric
authentication, it is clearly key to preventing recurrences of the events of 9/11.
In this scenario, biometrics is an enabling technology. It does not perform data mining. Rather, it
verifies that a person is who he or she claims to be in situations in which they are normally asked
to provide identification or a credit card. This information is available now, but biometrics will
make it far more reliable.
399 Pearl Street
Canada L7R 2M8