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In this essay the research question that is chosen is Is Biometrics an invasion of personal Privacy. Many different aspects of how biometrics will be an invasion to personal privacy will be written about. Currently biometrics is available in certain countries in airports and not available in others. Face and finger scanners are already in use in certain schools and also body scanners and finger recognition are being used in airports with the chance to expand to more schools and airports and other organisations around the world. There are certain privacy issues that concern the public from biometrics being in use and being enhanced further with just scanning your finger to buy products or saying your name, with this in mind there could be a issue with the database that holds all of the biometrics as this can be either leaked or hacked therefore giving the chance for identity fraud to be increased.
1.2 Why is Biometric privacy important?
There are many reasons why biometric privacy is important and one of the main reasons is Identity fraud. Identity fraud is very important because if anyone gets hold of the database that contains millions of people’s biometrics this would be a disastrous and will enable the person who has the database to create fake fingerprints so that they can get into certain buildings, access various personal information such as medical information.
1.3 Research question/argument
So the question “Is Biometrics an invasion of personal Privacy?” will prove the concerns and impacts that it will have not only to the organisations around the world but also the general public. The concerns that could be affected by the increase in technology and by the amount of data that is required with biometrics will be discussed throughout this paper. The main aspects of this paper that will be written about will be that too much data from an individual is taken, do they require all of this data. Also if data is misused, the cost of failure is hugely substantial and how the government will use the data to their advantage.
2.1 Social, Historical context
In the 1960s London had CCTV cameras and surveillances cameras installed and in sue however real biometric technology was bought into play towards the end of the 20th century. Year 2000 saw the First Face Recognition vendor test (FRVT) held, however further FRVT’s were held in 2002 and 2006. In 2001, Face recognition was used at a super bowl in Florida to identify wanted criminals and to prevent them from entering the stadium which recorded at least 100,000 fans entering the stadium electronically and was then matched to mug shots that they had from the Tampa police. 2001 saw a terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre which saw thousands of people killed, this was a start to improve the protection and security in America. Face recognition along with speech and other recognition were installed into buildings and organisations around the world. 2008 saw the introduction of Biometric Identity cards in the UK.
2.2 Definition, Concepts, Theoretical Perspectives
Biometrics has been in this world for many years and is becoming a nature for everyday use in certain parts of the world expanding to organisations around the world. Biometrics is introduced to make the world an easier place and keep the world free from Identity theft. However with the talk of the upcoming biometric technology and the additional information that will be required the concerns from the public are rising day by day. There are different types of biometric available that can be taken from an individual and placed in the database, they are: Fingerprint and Hand Geometry, Facial and Voice Recognition, Eye Biometrics: Iris and Retina Scanning, Signature Recognition and Keystroke Dynamics, Esoteric Biometrics. “Fingerprints are the oldest biometrics used and are widely recognised biometric markers” (Higgins, 2003)
There are two main aspects towards biometric technology and they are Biometric Identification and Biometric Identity Verification. Biometric identification is where a process recognised real-world entities and where the identity is recognised. The identity refers to a specific person, an individual and an identifier is signified by an identity. There may be a specific code within the identification of a person and certain data such as family name, date of birth etc is given. Organisations around the world will require an individual’s identifier in order to search through the existing files on the database. This is required as this is a process of searching for one existing match from millions of data available.
Biometric Identity Authentication is where the identifier is put through a database to match the biometrics and as Clarke states this is “established about the truth of an assertion by an entity that they have a particular identity, or are properly signified by a particular identifier”.(Clarke, 2001) To get this information on the system the organisations will acquire this information from the individual to check it against information that has been recorded in the past, for that reason authentication is the process of a one-to-one comparison instead of a group search process
2.3 What have other discussed about this issue?
Privacy has always been an issue and will certainly be an issue for years to come as there will constantly be a way that technology or biometrics will affect personal privacy. People will lose the “right to anonymity” (Prabhakar et al. 2003) if the biometrics system is in place for various purchases and information that they would not like to disclose will be available as the database will contain all of this private information. As Gus Hosein states in his journal that “individuals have the right to be left alone” (Hosein, 2004)
Many of the authors have given both good and bad points to biometrics and how it will help the world to decrease terrorism, identity fraud and various crimes. However there are a vast number of negative points to why biometrics should be introduced in more areas. (Balanoiu, 2009) speaks about how the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) was not consulted by the European Commission which shows no concern about the protection of individuals and their rights to freedom.
3.0 Main Content – Your Thesis
3.1 Too much personal information.
It is known that biometrics systems will gather too much personal information that will be stored on a database. Small details like taking a fingerprint to allow access to open a door, do we really want to sacrifice such information and data just to open a door?
The biometrics may be collected and distributed to other companies without any permission and explanation, whose hands will our information and possibly medical records go into?
They can also be used to track people and observe what each person is doing, this can be done by purchasing products with your biometrics and going from shop to shop they can be tracked and see your correct location and your previous locations. Medical records can be traced and exposed with or without the individual’s permission, medical records should be only available when needed at most and only with the individual’s permission, and as Prabhakar says the “right to anonymity” (Prabhakar et al. 2003) Many people are concerned about individual’s credit and debit card fraud as you may be required to give a finger print to purchase products and this will require your card details such as your account number and sort code will be held on this database and if this is leaked not only will your identification be leaked your card details will be leaked.
Another reason is that biometrics can be cut off and used, this is not something that happens very often but you cannot rule out that fact that someone would actually cut an individuals finger off in order to access a secured building such as a bank. This would open a door to more crimes in this world. Would this be worth such a risk as the world is trying to decrease on the number of crimes that are occurring? This is back up by Abernathy where he states “biometrics like face, voices and fingerprints are easily grabbed” (Abernathy and Tien) people will not be able to control when their biometrics are being tracked and when their face, voice or even hand recognition is being put into the system.
Biometrics cannot be used in day-to-day running of organisations or even shopping if all of the above will transpire as this will affect the lives of not only the individuals involved but the individuals around the world. Also by Prabhakar, he talks about how fake fingers can be simple to create and how this would affect individual’s privacy, however people may find that creating a fake finger can be easy as to repeating the process more times as it would be difficult to get the exact replica of a finger.
3.2 Cost of failure is high
As the current database gets hacked into or gets leaked which contains information that is stored on a passport or an identity card and there is such a huge scare with millions of individual’s data available to view. This is back up as Abernathy states “if you lose a credit card, you can cancel it and get a new one. If you lose a biometric, you’ve lost it for life” (Abernathy and Tien)
Biometrics are introduced to cut down on identity fraud and terrorism. However it is not required to identify an individual every minute of the day on their whereabouts if all you need to know is if they are legal enough to purchase and drink alcohol. If identity theft is upon an individual how would the individual overcome the fact that they were not at the scene, for example if an individual who has committed a crime by stealing the biometrics off another individual uses them illegally it will be the individual who’s biometrics they are that will get into trouble as there will be no evidence to show the actual person who used them.
Another reason that concerns that public is that if a individual who had cut their finger and have a scar and then go into a bank where you have to scan your finger to withdraw money or put money into the account, the individual will have problems as the ridge ending and the ridge bifurcation will be different to the one that is on the database, this would cause enormous problems to every person in this world as even the smallest of scratches on a finger will cause problems with the system reading and matching the biometrics.
3.3 Governments Advantage
Biometrics now looks to be an advantage to the government as they can have access to data of millions of individual’s personal information. As the following quote from Clarke backs up this issue:
“They provide a powerful weapon to corporations and governments, whereby yet more of the remnant anonymity of human action can be stripped away” (Clarke, 2001)
The chances of being anonymous are very slim and the way that the government will use the data is unthinkable. Just the fact of privacy is being intruded currently is bad enough along with the risk of the database being leaked or hacked into, the government having access to all this information just adds to the concern on what they will use the data for and how.
The government would expect this system to be the protection of the world as it would protect them against terrorism and identity theft as mentioned before but as Abernathy and Tien states:
“With biometric ID systems, as with national ID systems, we must be wary of getting the worst of both worlds: a system that enables greater social surveillance of the population in general, but does not provide increased protection against terrorists.”
Therefore the biometrics system will still be proving to be a major concern in society and until a legislation is put in place that the government nor any organisations around the world are allow to use the biometrics of an individual in any way or form without any consent from that individual. The government will be able to track and interfere individual’s privacy.
CCTVs (Closed-Circuit television) are playing a major part in the invasion of peoples privacy and with around 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK which equals to about 14 individuals to 1 CCTV camera, it is not surprising that individuals are concerned about how their lives are being watched every minute of their life and every step they take outside their house. CCTV cameras in the UK are a fifth of the amount that is in the world, CCTV makes the world like a “big brother” society and by that the risks of individual’s lives are at a greater risk. Data that organisations have such as the video tapes from the CCTV footage can be sold or leaked therefore as Gilbert states “the system is vulnerable to abuse – including bribery of staff and computer hackers gaining access” (Gilbert, 2007)
By stats from the same author – around £500m were spent on installing CCTV in the past decade this is a mammoth amount of money spent on systems to ‘spy’ on individuals and make the individuals feel uncomfortable when they walk out of their house. Do the government need to spend so much on technology that will watch the general public at every single time of the day, soon there will be a line of CCTV cameras and then the world will turn into a prison with the talk of installing more CCTV cameras. Gilbert backs this argument up “the number of CCTV cameras in Britain is so large that the installation of any more should be halted until the need for them is proven”. UK let alone the world have too many CCTV cameras as it is. Just installed CCTV cameras and future cameras will contain face recognition software where it will identify an individual’s face whilst they are walking in the street or walking into a nightclub they will be identified. Furthermore with current and up coming CCTV systems a “PatrolVu” mobile digital CCTV system is being addressed to the public however this is another invasion of individual’s privacy and even whilst playing in the park with the family there will be a PatrolVu mobile recording and identifying who each individual is.
4.0 Discussion and Conclusion
Around the world different biometrics are currently been utilized with individuals beings recorded everywhere they go. So the research question that this paper has been written for “Is Biometrics an invasion of personal Privacy?” has been justified.
With the amount of data that is extracted from individuals and placed into a database and the concern of the database being hacked into or leaked by one of the employees or any individual who has access to the database and even for a amount of money therefore being bribed or themselves or relatives threatened for this data. Once this data is leaked or in the possession of an unofficial person, this data cannot be changed as you can produce another ID card and passport but you cannot produce more biometrics as they are unique. Different biometric systems will always be coming into place and individuals will have more concerns and issues with how their data and biometrics will be kept private and not public and as the systems keep being updated and introduced there will never be a limited to the amount of information that they would like.
There are also concerns with the Government and how they would use the data and who they may pass the data onto. The government will know personal information about everyone including medical information that you do not wish to pass on or to be published in any sort of form and finally the issues with CCTV cameras installed every corner in the town centre and down and road or street you pass. Therefore individuals will always be vary of where they go and what they do as wherever you are what ever you do, someone will be watching you.
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HOSEIN, G. (2004) Privacy and or as Freedom, pp 1-34
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