Biometrics is an advanced technology, we all know that. Its top quality features make it a big asset, as a strong security measure. Critics as well as scholars don’t spend a day questioning its existence or talking about the privacy issues it possesses.
The argument is simply based on its integration into national security. The biggest point being made is that, if the enemy hacks and steals the data, the consequences could be devastating. The critics also argue that depending too much on the technology might one day ‘back-fire’ our existence.
Surveillance: The Biggest Privacy Risk
Biometric technology has gained the ‘security standard’ quite recently. The internet and Smartphone revolutions have taken biometrics to all new levels. But issues arrive when the collective biometric data works as constant surveillance in the hands of government. The shift to biometrics-enabled data poses the problem of privacy. Let’s understand this with a few examples.
Example 1 – Suppose you check into an organization which uses biometric checkpoint/s like facial recognitions. Now, the data collected is to identify frauds & imposters. But, it is also true that the recorded data has a storage database. Security agencies know your exact location and can verify the data with your online activities and geolocation tracking. This surveillance invades your privacy. Therefore, you ‘pay the price’.
Example 2 – Technologies like facial & iris-recognition are often used to locate a certain culprit/s in a public place such as a park or a market. However, the agency gets the data of the all the people/faces traveling through that place at the particular time. Hence, general populace or locals remain under constant surveillance wherever they go.
Example 3 – Secret agency/government needs data, the corporations are looking for profits. The public never knows who might have made a deal with whom. They never know when & where they are under surveillance. Online activities like shopping, social networking, gaming, dating and credit card transfers using biometric methods are also monitored in the name of surveillance.
Example 4 – Critics have stated that unreliable biometric devices can mistake an identity. Environmental conditions might misguide the machine. In that case, the concerned person faces a lot of inconvenience while the government loses time and resources on the false lead.
Even though one mustn’t believe in fictional films/shoes as they are fictional and serve entertainment purposes, popular American TV series like ‘Person of Interest’ & ‘Mr. Robot’ have taken the issue of online surveillance and hacking very seriously. Surveillance has been depicted in a very ‘realistic’ way. One can get a clear idea as to what surveillance might do to the general public without being noticed by anyone.
Also, the so-called ‘Digitalization’ has ensured that regardless of your consent, your biometric data will go into the hands of government, examples being India’s ‘Aadhar’ system, the Prism system of US etc. in future, cell phones will act as biometric prints. With such multimodal databases, the issue of compromise always remains in play. However, one can clearly say that surveillance is a major activity to keep threat levels low but how far are willing to test that remains to be seen.