Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy United States Your Rights Online

FBI Prepares Vast Database of Biometrics 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the left-my-irises-in-my-other-pants dept.
MacRonin sends us to the Washington Post for a story about the FBI's plans for a large biometric identification database. The Post also has a chart detailing the characteristics of the different methods of identification. We discussed the ethics of a similar situation a few months ago. Quoting the Post: "Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FBI Prepares Vast Database of Biometrics

Comments Filter:
  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:22PM (#21792344)
    I can't get this ending line out of my head... "He loved Big Brother."
    • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jacquesm (154384) <j@ww.3.14159com minus pi> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:38PM (#21792492) Homepage
      I think the FBI simply wants a bigger haystack :)

      It really amazes me how everybody seems to think that more information is key, whereas I think that *better* information is key. Datamining really is an advanced way of searching for the needle in that haystack and if you throw tons of non-relevant data in there you've just made your job that much harder. The big trick is to try to increase the quality of the data without missing important bits. Trawling all the grandmothers credit card transactions is not going to increase the S/N ratio.
      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday December 22, 2007 @04:05PM (#21792644) Homepage Journal

        From the story:

        The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

        Orwell was an optimist. The slide into complete loss of privacy, personal liberties, and any chance at atonement for making mistakes, intentional or otherwise, is far more insidious then he ever dreamed — and it is going to be far more complete than he imagined. Our country stands for nothing; we are powerless to change anything; the politicians and their lapdog agencies run rampant. I am ashamed.

        From your post:

        if you throw tons of non-relevant data in there you've just made your job that much harder.

        The data is relevant, don't kid yourself. Your retina print, fingerprints, blood type, genetic details... what tracking these things in this way really means is a profound hardening of classes; felons will always be felons, that time you got caught throwing toilet paper on the courthouse will never, ever come off your record, your political affiliations in college will always, always constrain your future job opportunities and more.

        A society that cannot forgive is a society that is lost, as far as I am concerned. A society that marks people specifically so that it can class them has reached the approximate social level of pond scum. There is little - if any - difference between the stars the Jews were forced to wear and a database that marks an individual for an infraction they have long ago atoned for. If the thesis is that one can never atone for an error, mis-step or intentional antisocial act, then it is flawed to begin with.

        None of which will stop, or even slow down, this trend. When every liberty is up for trading in return for a claim of improved security, when every freedom is deemed too risky to the body politic, when every over-stated threat causes the public to whimper and keep their children locked inside, the Rubicon has well and truly been crossed. Felons! Terrorists! Pedophiles! Pornography! Drugs! None of these "threats" do a fraction of the damage as the "solutions" America has come to, and is working towards.

        Orwell was indeed an optimist.

        • Great post. Now go watch your Two Minute Hate.
        • by Mex (191941)
          The problem with all this information is that you don't know who is behind it, and who is controlling it.

          It's a big disappointment to me how the USA has gone on from a sort of example for the rest of the world, to becoming more and more like Russia in the 80's.
        • by hitmark (640295)
          its just shows, yet again, thats it not big brother government thats to worry about, its big brother corp thats the problem...
        • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Informative)

          by sgt_doom (655561) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @05:46PM (#21793274)
          Well said, Good Citizen fyngyrz, well said.

          It is interesting to note that Total Information Awareness (TIA) components were well underway long before the events of 9/11/01 in America. Whether the FBI renames Carnivore to something else, the way the TIA was stealthily renamed and distributed (the illegal wiretapping of the nation within the first month of the Bush administration, the privatization of intel operations [now spread beyond 70 private contractors with online inputs to the Bushies], the privatization of Comsat leading to the National Applications Office, the final dot in the array - the use of satellites to spy overall on the American citizenry) among a variety of components, with inputs from NSA, NGA, etc., everything is now assembled and in place for TOTAL CONTROL. The Corporate Fascist State has won, end of story.....

        • by stox (131684)
          Hey! That's been my sig line on slashdot for quite some time now.
        • by Znork (31774)
          "The data is relevant, don't kid yourself."

          For any specific purpose any piece of information is more or less relevant.

          The problem with biometric data is that it isnt particularly unique. Biometry salesmen will try to convince you that their identifiers are special, but the fact of the matter is that evolution doesnt necessarily select for unique identifiers. We still have significant amounts of DNA in common with flatworms, nevermind other people.

          All biometrics available today have atrocious error rates, in
          • by Grym (725290) *

            DNA is as bad, the current theoretical best case is the equivalent of taking a the DNA variant of a dozen traits like hair color, height, skin color, etc. If you have a dozen such variables and calculate the number of possible permutiations you'll get a huge number. But these are not random numbers, they are selected for and match to a much larger than random extent within population groups. Get a large enough database and you will find matches. Take a sample from a hispanic and you'll get a dozen other his

            • by Znork (31774)
              "Furthermore, I dislike your analogy in that it suggests false positives for DNA fingerprinting are in any way, related to race."

              You're right, that was overly simplifying and skipping a number of steps. The more extensive reasoning goes like this; as subgroups and subcultures in urban settings often have a short and relatively close familial distribution these factors will strongly affect the statistical probability of matches within that subgroup. Not because of phenotype but because of close interrelation
  • Somehwat scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by proudfoot (1096177) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:23PM (#21792358)
    This is definitely something scary. Many employers might require you to hand over your prints to the FBI - but at the same time, you don't exactly want government to have everything on you if haven't committed a crime. Wasn't their a bill which was designed to prohibit enforceable gathering of biometric data by employers?
  • The FBI already retains fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks, at least for companies registered with the SEC. What may be new is the retention for other employers.
  • This is disturbing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:23PM (#21792362) Homepage

    The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

    You can get arrested for anything these days and now the FBI is going to become your employers watchdog? I've seen some dickish, big brother behavior since 9-11 but this tops the suck pyramid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iknownuttin (1099999)
      Yeah, and if you're arrested by mistake or acquitted after trial, no one will care. They'll just see some entry in the FBIs database and assume the worst. I think there should be some way that someone who's been falsely accused to get some compensation for not being able to work ever again. Let's face it, if you have any sort of criminal record - true or false - you can never get a job, loan, etc... your life is in effect ruined. And this database will make that much easier for it to be done.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @04:35PM (#21792836)
        The thing is, this is less about national security than it is about risk avoidance.

        Companies that do business with people, and organizations that hire people, wish to avoid risk. In principle, this is just an extension of the way the American credit system works. There, your entire financial history is available to anyone that wants to decide if you can be trusted. It used to be, the deadbeat customer was a normal cost of doing business. In today's world, companies large and small have the credit bureaus to track us for them. However, at least there if you keep your nose clean and wait enough years, your past misdeeds will no longer haunt you. Expect that limit to be removed at some point, because obviously people that can't handle money well are threats to national security.

        Make no mistake, the underlying sponsors of this unConstitutional boloney are corporate. From the extension of copyrights to longer credit histories to biometric tracking, this is all about the corporate world wanting to minimize its exposure to risk. The fact that it plays right into the hands of certain power hungry politicians and their appointed/unelected officials is just unfortunate for us.
        • Make no mistake, the underlying sponsors of this unConstitutional boloney are corporate.

          Is that your standard Republican and Democrat voter both believe that you can have a government able to create infinite amounts of money and not have this happen.

          Money is power. It is goods and services. With it you can enact your will, without it, you cannot.

          The fact that it plays right into the hands of certain power hungry politicians and their appointed/unelected officials is just unfortunate for us.

          It really has nothing to do with chance.

      • by symbolic (11752)
        You're rationalizing that "there should be some way to...". No. There shouldn't be a "way to.." This shouldn't even be necessary. This shouldn't even be happening. We have an election coming up in 2008. If we elect a leader instead of a scum-sucking politician, this project will be tabled. Forever.
    • Isn't this a classic definition of fascism ? I mean the government being a puppet of firm & corporation ? Because if I read that right, this more or less means the FBI suddenly become a special police specifically helping policing employee of corporation... I could be wrong on the definition, though...
    • Would this mean you can also see when your boss gets hauled up - even if no charges are brought, or he/she is acquitted?

      First of all, it'll allow you to see, at the interview stage, if you'll be working for a bunch of crooks.
      Second, if companies do start to take "brushes with the law" into account for career advancement, it sounds like a relative in law-enforcement could be the fast track to promotion.

  • Clearly they are getting a headstart by treating all visitors to America as suspects: getting your eyes scanned and both index fingers printed is no kind of "welcome". A few years ago it was a completely different experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DamonHD (794830)
      It's the major reason that I won't travel to the US these days.

      I don't want to be treated as a criminal before I've even left airside.

      Rgds

      Damon
      • Re:U.S.And them (Score:4, Interesting)

        by snl2587 (1177409) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @04:15PM (#21792700)
        And this is exactly what bothers me so much about the U.S. government these days. I'm an American, and even though I don't know you I wish you could visit the country without be treated like a dangerous felon.

        We (Americans) are really not all bad. As it turns out most of us dislike the current government, too. It's just that, well, we have a fairly large population of over-religious farmers who tend to vote for all the wrong people. And thus sh*t like this is allowed to happen.
        • And this is exactly what bothers me so much about the U.S. government these days. I'm an American, and even though I don't know you I wish you could visit the country without be treated like a dangerous felon.

          Well, there is a philosophical conflict raging here. There's obviously people who want to get into the US to perform terrorist acts. This leaves us with 3 choices:

          1. Screen every visitor carefully

          2. Screen only "suspicious" people (profiling based on religion, etc. and is often considered "racist".)

          3
          • by MrMr (219533)
            Other countries don't have terrorist problems (yet), and so they don't have to perform intrusive procedures.
            Are you joking?
            • by Tablizer (95088)
              [Other countries don't have terrorist problems (yet), and so they don't have to perform intrusive procedures.] Are you joking?

              I mis-stated my thought. Thanks for pointing this out. It should have been more like:

              "Perhaps you are used to countries that don't (yet) have a terrorist problem, and thus have less intrusive inspections."
                     
          • by snl2587 (1177409) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @04:41PM (#21792880)

            Other countries don't have terrorist problems (yet), and so they don't have to perform intrusive procedures.

            Under what rock have you been living?

            I am not convinced that we are any less safe now then we were a decade or so ago, just much more paranoid. It really says something when a nation of immigrants is deceived into thinking they need to bar foreigners.

            • by snl2587 (1177409)

              Sorry,

              ..less safe now than we were a decade or so ago...

              I was typing in a bit of a hurry.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by garry_g (106621)
            Quote: Other countries don't have terrorist problems (yet), and so they don't have to perform intrusive procedures.

            Well, there's a gap between reality and politicians' view of this issue ... Take for example Germany - our minister of internal affairs keeps insisting in the terrorist threat, calling for impressive plans of data retention, which is NOT directed against any foreign travelers, but the WHOLE of German inhabitants ...

            How afraid do you have to be???
          • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:05PM (#21793364) Homepage Journal

            A philosophical conflict? How about a conflict of overdramatized, highly unlikely fearmongering juxtaposed against the loss of civil liberties? The latter seems to be the specific problem.

            Living freely includes risk. The problem here is that many people have little or no understanding of the freedoms they had, how hard they were fought for and how unusual it is that they had them in the first place. Most troubling is the fact that they had no clue how easy it was to lose them, and now that they have been lost, recovery is much, much more difficult.

            As far as I am concerned, when a criminal - be they terrorist, mugger or politician disobeying the constitution - commits an antisocial act, that criminal should be held accountable for that crime. If the crime is large, the accounting should be large. If society can accept that the crime has been atoned for, then the criminal should get a fresh start. If society cannot accept this, then the criminal should be either put to death or imprisoned permanently. In no case should bystanders or citizens not even involved on any level be inconvenienced by actions nominally taken to ameliorate the criminal act. Sure, this approach involves risk. I prefer the risk. We are a better people when we accept risk in exchange for liberty than when we trade liberty for any illusion of safety gained by treating everyone as if they were a potential criminal.

            Your option three is the only honorable option.

          • by pjt33 (739471)
            Over here in the United Kingdom we've had terrorist problems since the 1970s. We've also had a few attacks in the past few years, and the police and security services claim to have prevented several more. We don't fingerprint and iris scan visitors as a matter of course.
            • by internewt (640704)

              Over here in the United Kingdom we've had terrorist problems since the 1970s. We've also had a few attacks in the past few years, and the police and security services claim to have prevented several more. We don't fingerprint and iris scan visitors as a matter of course.

              One thing to remember is that in the days of the cold war it was the free west vs. the "guilty until proven innocent" east. Policies that get implemented these days in western countries would never have been suggestable 30 years ago, as things like finger printing all visitors would have been something those dirty commies did!

        • by DamonHD (794830)
          Hi,

          Don't worry, I can tell the difference between individual Americans and the US govt!

          My major client is a large US investment bank and has been for over a decade. American individuals and corporations are fine (well I guess I've met a few bad ones, but in fact mainly of non-US origin strangely), but the 'security theatre' rhetoric of marking all foreigners as potential rapists^Wterrorists is just stupid and pisses off natural friends of the US.

          No, I don't trust our (UK) govt with all my sensitive data ei
        • Re:U.S.And them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cooley (261024) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @05:02PM (#21793050) Homepage

          It's just that, well, we have a fairly large population of over-religious farmers who tend to vote for all the wrong people.
          That's funny, every demographic I've ever seen says that between 1 and 2 percent of the US population either lives on a farm or considers farming their occupation. One to two percent of the population has very little sway over the outcome of our national elections.

          You go ahead and keep telling yourself that "it's some farmer in the midwest" screwing it all up, though; especially the next time you drive through Florida.

          Right now on the US National political scene, it would seem that the default "heir" to the Bush/Cheney ideology of fear is Rudolph Giuliani. What city was he mayor of, again? Are there a lot of farmers living in Manhattan?

          Oh wait, I must have been confused; it's Illinois where a lot of farmers live, and their state has given us Senator Obama in the Presidential contender line-up.

          Please, if you're going to generalize about the American population, try to generalize in a way that makes sense. Here you're telling our foreign friend "hey look, we Americans are cooler than we might appear", yet then you generalize about "farmers". Nice.
          • by Chapter80 (926879)
            I second that!

            I live in a suburban area, and work in a high tech field, and know very few people who revealed their political feelings in the last 2 presidential elections that did NOT vote for Bush. I'd say I probably know 50 people who revealed their political leanings, and 48 were for Bush.

            None are farmers.

          • That's funny, every demographic I've ever seen says that between 1 and 2 percent of the US population either lives on a farm or considers farming their occupation. One to two percent of the population has very little sway over the outcome of our national elections.

            Allow me to add to your merriment with the following Two Fun Facts:

            1. The majority of Slashdot users are American born.
            2. The majority of those born in the US and of voting age do not understand their voting system.

            For anyone following along and
          • by snl2587 (1177409)

            You go ahead and keep telling yourself that "it's some farmer in the midwest" screwing it all up, though; especially the next time you drive through Florida.

            Funny, I live in Florida. In 2004 52% voted for Bush vs. 47% for Kerry, and that was three years ago. Since then Florida's alignment has moved into Blue territory, at least among the people who actually vote.

            Also, for future record, Giuliani does not appeal to New Yorkers. He appeals to those who felt they identified the most with Bush last time. New

        • The solution to the over-religious farmer problem is to focus on enabling voters. Designating election day as a national holiday is an obvious and easy start, but even then, poorer counties seem to always encounter longer lines of people wanting, yet not getting to vote. If the progressives could build a movement around enabling voters, they would certainly gain on the number of voters controlled by the religious right.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Heian-794 (834234)

          The Japanese government is even worse. They now fingerprint, photograph, and question visitors and returning residents not only when they first enter the country, but again during all subsequent re-entries [debito.org] . And this is in addition to the mandatory re-entry permits (3000 yen fee!), mandatory registration of non-citizens at their local city hall, and mandatory carrying of Alien Registration Cards on one's person at all times. Don't think you're free to wander about the country after your ordeal with immi

    • This, [eggmann.blog.is] while maybe exageratted(probably not, but I have to give the benefit of the doubt as this is just a one sided view) makes me very sad to live here. The spirit of the law is a dream of the past.
  • How the... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Unlikely_Hero (900172) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:28PM (#21792404)
    How am I supposed to try and keep my irises private if they can be read without my knowledge?!
    What am I supposed to do? Get tin-foil-sunglasses?
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      Naw, just cut out your eyes and burn the remanants.

      Problem solved! (well, except for the whole "I'm blind!" thing...)

  • ... in another story today someone made the '+5 insightful' proposition that a 64bit OS could address 'enough' memory during 'our lifetime' [slashdot.org]. Well, figure it.

    CC.
  • "And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk"...

    It's a great way to profit from the coming federal contracts! It doesn't matter to them that the "Science" was debunked a century ago... We'll dress it up with some new buzzwords and make millions!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by KDR_11k (778916)
      and perhaps even the unique ways people walk

      So we're going to see the Ministry of Silly Walks?
      • by Nursie (632944)
        Actually we're more likely to ee silly walks outlawed.

        If you're walking unusually, you must be doing it to throw off the tracking software, and if you're trying to throw off the tracking, then you must be intending to commit a crime, citizen.

        I actually worked a bit on some of the theory behind gait recognition when I was a student. Interesting from a technical perspective but scary as hell in terms of what it could be used for. Other than the obvious of course. The classic example of legitimate use is a ban
  • 10 year contracts are not common for software projects in the federal government. 10 years of engineering and support is a serious undertaking by a major federal agency. Taking this down will require a similarly serious effort if people are serious about pursuing that.
  • I use a toothbrush myself. Anyway, does this mean you are suspect if you ever stopped by a cop? So much for this actually being guilty of anything, now it's just if you are even questioned. I'm not sure who's worse, the employers or the gov't. Either way, you all still have a chance to make a change, until after the primaries. Don't lock yourselves in.
    • What change? (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Stoutlimb (143245)
      Change the colour of a pretty graphic on TV from red to blue? That's about the only difference people have the power to effect.

      Have fun picking a new jailer.
    • In the US of A you went from "not a life form of any kind" to "probable terror suspect" on the day you were born!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``I'm not sure who's worse, the employers or the gov't.''

      The gov't, of course. The employers at least pay you money. The gov't _takes_ your money, and then uses it against you!
    • I think you have the way things should be (free elections) confused with the way things are (rigged elections)
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @03:39PM (#21792496) Homepage Journal
    you will find that the majority of americans won't be disturbed by this. there are some who will use this as proof that most americans are morons. as if insulting the average citizen is supposed to win you any points in the battle against big/ intrusive government, oh great genius?

    no, the average american won't care, because the average american, when given news like this, doesn't see a big downside to this. when told the downside to this as displayed here in some posts, they will think the average slashdot poster has been watching too many paranoid hollywood movies

    now give my troll mod for not toeing the party line here

    yawn
    • Sad but true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nursie (632944) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @05:04PM (#21793058)
      The average person will simply think the government is doing more to look out for *them*.

      A few false arrests and multi-year imprisonments because of a software bug or flaw in the biometric database? Just the price to be paid for security.

      That particular way of thinking sickens me, but it's quite prevalent. Many people (my mother included) would far rather see 10 innocents imprisoned than one guilty man go free. Because they're terrorists or something.

      I try to explain that I know have Iranian family on my father's side and next time it could be me that's falsely accused of associating with and aiding people (incorrectly) thought to be terrorists. But that doesn't seem to get through, that there could ever be a mistake. Somewhere in the back of a lot of folks minds there's this strong conviction that mistakes like that just don't happen, despite multiple high profile examples to the contrary, and even if they do, it doesn't matter because they don't think it can happen to them. Because why would it? I'm a good person, why would the government arrest me?

      At that point I usually give up trying to argue and go back to mourning the state of the world. No, it doesn't win me any points, realising that the average person is about as questioning of authority as a faithful puppy, it is unfortunately the true state of the world though.
      • of equal import, which escapes you and the majority of paranoid posters you will find in this thread, is that blind distrust is equally moronic

        the american government is not satan incarnate. it is also not the paragon of virtue. it is mostly bumbling bureaucrats who mean well

        so when people go at the american government like they are talking about a sneaky evil out to enslave all of mankind, they sound like retarded matrix fanboys, not intelligent wary citizens out protecting our freedoms

        did you hear that? i
        • "the american government is not satan incarnate"

          And nowhere did I say it was.

          "it is also not the paragon of virtue. it is mostly bumbling bureaucrats who mean well"

          Agreed, partially. It's also made up of people who specific moral agendas and biases, prejudices and (worse, IMHO) those who are willing to sell out the people they are representing for their own political, social or financial gain.

          "so when people go at the american government like they are talking about a sneaky evil out to enslave all of mankin
  • Just who's the boss?
     
  • Privacy advocates worry about the ability of people to correct false information. "Unlike say, a credit card number, biometric data is forever," said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster. He said he feared that the FBI, whose computer technology record has been marred by expensive failures, could not guarantee the data's security. "If someone steals and spoofs your iris image, you can't just get a new eyeball," Saffo said.

    That's the thing, mistakes are made and if the Government starts acting

  • at the FBI, NSA and CIA. They are trying to get these programs up and running before the changing of the guard.
  • I guess since the FBI has previously demonstrated its prowess in implementing technology projects, with (inter alia) the Virtual Case File fiasco, and the SirCam infection of their National Infrastructure Protection Center, it's time for them to move on to a higher level. It's good to know we can still count on the Peter Principle.
  • I thought they shut down a very similar database recently. Upon hearing the news someone here said it would reappear soon enough. True dat.
  • The same FBI..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by budword (680846) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @04:59PM (#21793026)
    The same FBI that couldn't put together an email system in 2 years with a few hundred million bucks. The good news is BIG BROTHER isn't competent, the bad news is that he has no idea he isn't competent. The big problem with that is that he carries a gun, and because the people he deals with on a regular basis are the only people in the world even more brutally stupid than he is, he never figures out he's a little slow. If it can be abused it will be. I bet the false positive ratio will be greater than 1000 to 1 with this baby. It won't catch many, if any, bad guys, but it will result in countless innocent people being "interviewed" by Bubba the $9 an hour security guard at the airport. Good luck with that. Time to leave the USA. The fascists have won.
  • Using biometric data is a dangerous road IMHO. If biometric authentication is performed under very tightly controlled conditions then it may be difficult to spoof but the more widespread it becomes the less controlled the conditions will be (the more people involved the higher the chance of stupid people overseeing the process). You can tighten up a server. even Windows (-; so that it is very difficult to penetrate, but when you have billions of I.T. admins running servers you're going to have some looseni

  • by vkg (158234) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:26PM (#21793482) Homepage
    There is an open alternative to this kind of biometric snooping: CheapID. It's a digital identity standard, and a protocol for having a court order be required before the police, or other government agencies, could run a biometric search on the Big Database. It enforces that standard by moving the Big Database to an international level, but encrypting the metadata attached to each record - including fields like name - in a way which means the people with access to the database can't *do* anything with it, because there is no information about *people* in the database (like names,) only information about their physical bodies. Data stripped of metadata is largely worthless, and to unstrip an item needs a court decrypt from a national government.

    From http://guptaoption.com/4.SIAB-ISA.php [guptaoption.com]

    This paper shows how we can manage large scale biometrics databases and increase the amount of privacy we have from government snooping while still having a secure society.

    The basic crux of this paper is that you can separate the biometrics database, which simply identifies your physical body, and isn't necessarily any more intrusive than Flickr or any other online photo sharing site, and the reputation database, which stores things like your credit rating, any criminal record, and the suspicions of various government agencies about your intentions.

    So when you do something like rent a car, you give them a token which has your face on it. They match your face to the token, and say "ok, this token is valid." But the token doesn't have your name, or your SSN, or anything else on it: it's totally sterile. But if you steal the car, they take the token to court, as well as the proof you gave it to them, and the court uses the token to get your name, SSN and other details.

    If all that FBI or other government biometrics database stored was tokens, and it required a court order to go from a match in the biometrics database to a name and street address, I think we'd have a fair balance between civil liberties and security. A database of pictures of faces or fingerprints is not the intrusive part: it's the connecting of your face or your fingerprint to your background that is the intrusion, and we can separate the two databases and require a court order (and a crypto key) to reconnect them.

    Cheap DNA scanners are coming. We've have to fix how we handle biometric data as a society before they arrive.
  • I had to go to New York on family business in 2006. The US requires you to leave fingerprints at the airport. And even though it is very easy nowdays to fool fingerprint scanners, I didn't want to risk something like this and be thrown out the country. And since US government agencies are very "open" about their data (any person posing as a business that needs to screen potential employees can get extensive background information), I used to worry about the fact that any idiot can now download my fingerprin
    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      I've just finished some building work on my house. Some of the time I was wearing industrial thickness gloves, and sometimes not. As a result my fingers are now quite rough, with worn parts, small scratches and the like.

      If someone was to take my fingerprints now (either with permission or against my will) and record them as "mine", what would be the situation when my hands healed? Would I forever be denied access to me because of the discrepancy, or would there be two me's, with different fingerprints - b

    • by Nursie (632944)
      The fact that the biometric data is stored on the chip in the passport does not mean it can be accesses or reproduced.

      Look at chip credit cards. You cannot retrieve a PIN from them, even though an encrypted and hashed version resides on the chip. You can't even get the hash; just an answer, yes or no, whether what is presented is correct or not. I would presume that any sensible passport scheme would be much the same. Am I wrong?
      • by Britz (170620)
        I forgot to mention that in protest of the new passports the CCC (or some other guys I can't remember) just broke that encryption (or, for legal reasons, just showed how it is broken).
  • The summary is 99% vaporware. The FBI people that are spending the money on this boondoggle are over promising on a big IT project. It's not going to work out the way everyone thinks it will. I replied before I checked if anyone from the biometrics industry replied, so hopefully I'm repeating what they said.

    1. Data isn't shared or otherwise capable of being shared. Biometric systems from the gui all the way back to the template that's stored is proprietary. Short-story, biometric systems are a GIANT bl

Your program is sick! Shoot it and put it out of its memory.

Working...