Government Technology

Biometric Scanning Rises Despite Privacy Fears



March 17, 2010 By

Governments that are looking to protect health benefit records and safeguard citizens from identity thieves might want to check out their favorite spy movies for a clue about what help is coming.

Technology is on the rise that scans palm prints, eyes and voices to allow access into rooms or data and to verify identities. Based on biometrics, these systems recognize individuals by analyzing unique characteristics of a person's body or behavior.

But with recent advances in the technology, new biometrics systems are coming onto the scene, such as the full-body scanners that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced will be landing at 11 U.S. airports by summer 2010. And as more scanning systems roll out, and through which citizens are linked to databases, privacy advocates stress the risks of having personal information in the open.

"We don't want to the see the same problems we've seen with other identification systems," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group in Washington, D.C. "Before people jump in the deep end of the pool, they need to really consider the short-term and long-term consequences. Any information that's collected has got to be protected."

But that's not stopping Evan Smith, CEO for Eye Controls, an iris recognition biometrics company based in Virginia. Since launching in 2007, he said, his company has implemented its SafeMatch system at six health clinics and a construction site, and has been in talks with various government agencies.

"A lot of times, people are concerned with biometrics being an invasion of their privacy, but this system protects privacy," he said. "In a world where when you go to a hospital and have to look into a camera and your physical features match, somebody can't come in and pretend to be you."

Eyes On the Patient

As concerns about medical identity theft and insurance fraud continue to grow, more hospitals are looking for better identification tools. With biometrics, specifically iris scans, medical personnel can identify patients and retrieve accurate health records in the blink of an eye.

That's why in 2009, Urban Health Plan, a clinic in the South Bronx, integrated eye scan technology to match patients to their medical records. Urban Health Plan has 84 Eye Controls cameras throughout the clinic, from the front desks to the financial checkout to the exam rooms, Smith said. The clinic just ordered 50 more. The cameras cost $149 each, he said, and the price for the software varies depending on the facility's size.

Such technology, he added, would be invaluable in disaster situations, when injured people get transported from an on-site triage to a facility for treatment.

"How do you start a medical record for that person and have it transported with them amid the chaos?" Smith asked, adding that the handheld iris camera and software could be used to reduce identification errors.

The goal of the federal government is for most Americans to have electronic health records by 2014. Hospitals are in the process of creating a nationwide network of private, secure and interoperable electronic health records. With its simple interface, Smith said, the iris cameras can be plugged into any electronic medical record system.

And when it comes to privacy, all iris pattern data is stored in a secure server, he added, and is useless outside of the system.

"It's just ones and zeroes," he said. "It doesn't mean anything. If anybody wants my iris pattern data, I'll send it to you. If you can figure out how to hurt me with it, let me know."


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Comments

Anonymous    |    Commented March 18, 2010

yet again, here is another technology that companies are trying to sell, without proper security and privacy safeguards. When questions are raised about security and/or privacy, the canned answer is that the data is "secure" and even if someone got to it, it's not useable outside of the system. They are not thinking about the insiders who could be compromised or become disgruntled, or of how the data could be altered so the actual individual has troubel because the scan doesn't match what is on file.

Anonymous    |    Commented March 18, 2010

yet again, here is another technology that companies are trying to sell, without proper security and privacy safeguards. When questions are raised about security and/or privacy, the canned answer is that the data is "secure" and even if someone got to it, it's not useable outside of the system. They are not thinking about the insiders who could be compromised or become disgruntled, or of how the data could be altered so the actual individual has troubel because the scan doesn't match what is on file.

Anonymous    |    Commented March 18, 2010

yet again, here is another technology that companies are trying to sell, without proper security and privacy safeguards. When questions are raised about security and/or privacy, the canned answer is that the data is "secure" and even if someone got to it, it's not useable outside of the system. They are not thinking about the insiders who could be compromised or become disgruntled, or of how the data could be altered so the actual individual has troubel because the scan doesn't match what is on file.

Anonymous    |    Commented March 22, 2010

Whether people like it or not, technology is improving and biometrics are going to be employed almost everywhere. Like the article said, these systems will be protecting privacy more than any form of identification being used today. It's much easier to fake a plastic or paper ID than it is to breach a secure server. The most trusted people must be put in place to maintain these systems just like a secure credit information server such as VeriSign. Worrying about being protected less is simply irrational. If you want to read a good article take a look at bigskybiometrics.wordpress.com

Anonymous    |    Commented March 22, 2010

Whether people like it or not, technology is improving and biometrics are going to be employed almost everywhere. Like the article said, these systems will be protecting privacy more than any form of identification being used today. It's much easier to fake a plastic or paper ID than it is to breach a secure server. The most trusted people must be put in place to maintain these systems just like a secure credit information server such as VeriSign. Worrying about being protected less is simply irrational. If you want to read a good article take a look at bigskybiometrics.wordpress.com

Anonymous    |    Commented March 22, 2010

Whether people like it or not, technology is improving and biometrics are going to be employed almost everywhere. Like the article said, these systems will be protecting privacy more than any form of identification being used today. It's much easier to fake a plastic or paper ID than it is to breach a secure server. The most trusted people must be put in place to maintain these systems just like a secure credit information server such as VeriSign. Worrying about being protected less is simply irrational. If you want to read a good article take a look at bigskybiometrics.wordpress.com

Bob Z    |    Commented April 1, 2011

Am I missing something or isn't this 2011? Why would you headline a story that was written a year ago? Surely, there is something interesting going on somewhere that is current??


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