27 May Iris Scans: Security Breakthrough Or Privacy Invasion?
New technology allows irises to be scanned from 40 feet away. Is this a wonder weapon against crime and terrorism or a way for governments to invade our privacy and track our movements?
Imagine if you could be identified with certainty from 40 feet away by anyone with a special camera and your iris scan in a database. Carnegie Mellon researchers at the Cylab Biometrics Center have invented a device that can do that. It should definitely have criminals feeling nervous, but maybe we should all be nervous.
First the good news. According to SRI International, a spinoff of Stanford Research Institute, iris scans are 1,000 times more accurate than fingerprint scans. We’re already using handheld iris scanners in high security situations. The new Carnegie Mellon device will work up to 40 feet away — even in a mirror — so, for example, a police officer making a traffic stop can safely identify a potentially dangerous suspect before he even exits his vehicle.
The whole system works with fewer false positives than fingerprints, and it’s effective at the same general range as facial recognition. (Facial recognition famously failed during the Boston bombings because no pictures were close enough.)
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