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Thread: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* shakeylegs's Avatar
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    Default Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Haven't heard much discussion of this and I'm wondering how you feel about the FBI's biometric's project. Would you feel safer? Would this reduce crime or terrorism? Given the ever increasing collection of personal information by industry and government, I must admit it makes me uneasy.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...102544_pf.html

    While I can see the value to law enforcement, the potential for abuse seems enormous, especially in the unlikely event we find ourselves with leaders who willingly lie, abuse their official powers, and show disdain for the constitution.

    BTW, it does not appear to be limited to persons in the US.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Whatever can be accessed by men can also be hacked by men. No, it will not be safe, whoever needs to tamper and forge a data will still find a way to do so, as they have with driver license, passports, state, national ids all over the world.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    I've done government investigations using all types of authority and gadgets.

    I can offer the following:

    The government has power and authority which can be used as it was intended by the people for the people, or used for other purposes which could be categorized as misuse. There are some safeguards to prevent agency and individual misuse of information--audits, investigations, information "walls," and need-to-know policies, termination of employment and possible fines and prison.

    Consider the fate of Richard Nixon and his cronies like G. Gordon Liddy (ex-FBI) who were illegally gathering information on political rivals. Nixon had to use black bag guys like Liddy and his Cuban spies to do the job because the FBI (including the 'Deep Throat' agent) or CIA would have told him to buzz off. If the President of the U.S. doesn't have the juice to get illegal information, I doubt any lesser bureaucrat does.

    Given the need to protect us from terrorists and criminals, collecting identifying information (and associated arrival/departure information from the U.S.) seems worthwhile.

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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Very interesting issue. I wonder whether biometric profiling is as potentially abusive as racial or ethnic profiling; whether it is likely to be a better tool to protect the public than racial or ethnic profiling; and whether the data intensive character of biometric profiling is worth its cost.

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    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    I only wish that they would not waste money that way. I'm not worried about the use of the information. The fairy tale "face recognition programs" seen on TV just don't work well when faced with huge databases to search through. Even doing a simple fingerprint search takes a huge a amount of time unlike the 10 minute searches on of the omniscient 'CODIS" on CSI.

    The false positive rate of face recognition programs trialled in airports had a horrendous false positive rate. There are not enough TSA agents to check them all out.

    I think the homeland security folks need to stop watching TV and start reading scientific journals.

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  6. #6

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Fingerprint analysis time depends on many factors. Our main system checks a few of the biggest print databases in the U.S., possibly the world. It takes about five minutes from the time you click 'submit.'

    Checking a secondary database requires a more lengthy, semi-computerized, procedure that takes about 15 minutes if the analyst wasn't doing anything, but typically takes 2-4 hours due to backlog of prints to analyze. This procedure is only done to check suspects who seem worthy of additional investment in time.

    A tertiary check on non-standard (for us) databases could be run in rare cases to look for terrorists, fugitives from foreign countries, serial killers and other exotic situations.

    These systems are the most valuable law enforcement tool in use, in my opinion. They have flagged murderers, terrorists, rapists and child molesters and wanted fugitives that were arrested for very minor crimes that otherwise would not get any punishment.

    Edit to add: When I say fingerprint checks, I mean a person's fingers being scanned (living or dead), not latent prints lifted from an object which may be incomplete or hard to read.
    Last edited by Lightraven; 12-27-2007 at 12:49 AM.

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    Flashaholic LightInTheWallet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Weren't the events of 9/11 committed by foreign nationals with legitimately obtained travel documentation? I dont think having my DNA or Al Sharptons thumbprints in a database, will ever prevent determined evildoers from causing harm within the U.S. I do believe it would make many people think that they are being afforded a high level of safety from their Gov't. Ever wonder how they open boxes in the magazine kiosks inside the TSA secure area? I do, and Aunt Molly's facial features have nothing to do with it. Not trying to be a troublemaker but I am concerned about my nations security measures.

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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Any database can and will be compromised. Any information can and will be stolen. Any security can and will be bypassed. Big Brother is notoriously inept when it comes to security. The problem is that you can't stop it. All the TSA and other security junk is just that, window dressing to placate the masses.
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Interesting topic and discussion so far. Anything these days can and will be hacked by others. With that said, it is not just government that gets hacked but just about anything that is on the internet gets hacked from time to time. Nobody's perfect.

    If the FBI wants to collect more information on the people within the CONUS or overseas I do not have a problem with that. If they were to have a detailed list of my tattoo's, scars, eye & hair color, height, weight, hand and palm print, and able to do a retina scan on me to rule me out of something that I'm being accused of then that is a great thing.

    Now of course the hacked part comes into play and if someone got into the system and changed people identifying marks then yes we would have a problem. But keeping a record of these things on paper and as well in a computer database provides a layer of checks and balances that should be suitable for most.

    Of course nothing that is done by the goverment is always going to be liked let alone excepted by the masses or both sides of the table. But with the right set of checks and balances put into place and an in depth look at how these system would work, (more than this article) it could be a good thing.

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    Flashaholic* KC2IXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by gadget_lover View Post
    ...snip...

    The false positive rate of face recognition programs trialled in airports had a horrendous false positive rate. ...snip...
    Where I work (one of the major TV networks) we would LOVE to have accurate face recognition - and we test them all, regularly. Not very good.

    We would LOVE to be able to take all the raw news footage, play it back into a face recognition system, and have even random people IDed as say "random person 12687453". 6 months later, "random person 12687453" turns out to be say, Monica Lewinsky (picture this is 10 years ago) - we would have loved to be able to say "give us every video tape with random person 12687453 in it"

    It's not there yet - and we don't need the real time ability that say the TSA needs (but we do have millions of videotapes - yes folks, millions)
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    Flashaholic LightInTheWallet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    It's probably unpleasant to have your Paypal account hacked. Imagine how unpleasant life would be if your Fingerprint info was hacked.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    The government and companies make it way too easy for crooks to steal identities using names, social security numbers and birth dates.

    By using a fingerprint scan, nobody is going to get a credit card in your name and rack up huge balances and leave you to deal with the mess. You won't have 6 illegal aliens working in a chicken deboning plant in Iowa using your social security number with the IRS leaning on you for the 'unpaid taxes.'

    Crooks already have it made for identity theft--all they need is a few pieces of information. It could only get much harder by requiring a fingerprint scan.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightraven View Post
    The government and companies make it way too easy for crooks to steal identities using names, social security numbers and birth dates.

    By using a fingerprint scan, nobody is going to get a credit card in your name and rack up huge balances and leave you to deal with the mess. You won't have 6 illegal aliens working in a chicken deboning plant in Iowa using your social security number with the IRS leaning on you for the 'unpaid taxes.'

    Crooks already have it made for identity theft--all they need is a few pieces of information. It could only get much harder by requiring a fingerprint scan.
    Agreed and very well said.

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    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightraven View Post
    Fingerprint analysis time depends on many factors. Our main system checks a few of the biggest print databases in the U.S., possibly the world. It takes about five minutes from the time you click 'submit.'

    Checking a secondary database requires a more lengthy, semi-computerized, procedure that takes about 15 minutes if the analyst wasn't doing anything, but typically takes 2-4 hours due to backlog of prints to analyze. This procedure is only done to check suspects who seem worthy of additional investment in time.

    A tertiary check on non-standard (for us) databases could be run in rare cases to look for terrorists, fugitives from foreign countries, serial killers and other exotic situations.
    OK, I'm impressed. The last article I read (a couple years back) had a check of a single database taking a week from the time the request was submitted to the time the results were given back to the requester.

    How many prints are in the system that you mentioned?

    It sounds like your situation is one where you have the person available. Do you narrow the search by age, sex and race to speed it up, or is that a full search of every print?

    Thanks for the post.

    Daniel
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    Flashaholic* PEU's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightraven View Post
    Given the need to protect us from terrorists and criminals, collecting identifying information (and associated arrival/departure information from the U.S.) seems worthwhile.
    Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    This was said by the guy who is portrayed in the 100 dollar bill...


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    *Flashaholic* James S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    there is no harm in giving law enforcement the tools to do their job. The harm comes in allowing them to do it in secret. As long as the audit process of who accessed what for what reason is public information, than the information can be used legally and openly. As soon as you add in that the database can be searched for "secret" reasons, then there will be abuse because the use is no longer transparent to the auditing agencies. The problems that we're having with this now days is entirely because we know they will abuse the systems because they don't need to account for their use of it. It's all secret and need to know.

    I WANT the police to be able to wire tap the terrorist suspects, I want the police to be able to run fingerprints when they have a suspect. I do not when they to be able to datamine my information as I drive past them just on a whim. In the past auditing of these systems has worked very well. The CIA and the FBI do tons of auditing. If you run info on someone you better know darned well why and be able to justify it to the auditors later. As soon as you remove that step then you're in trouble.

    This doesn't address the problems with hacking though. Given these bank people that just carry CD's burned with everybody's SS#'s unencrypted and just loose them out in public, how can you trust those people to maintain any kind of system. Again, with public auditing and scrutiny of the procedures in place to protect our data and privacy. Someone needs to be responsible not only to their superior but to a public, separate auditing agency that will come in and evaluate all the stupid things that they do publicly and as page 1 news. There is no security in keeping the fact that my data is taped to the underside of your desk drawer. As much of the system used should be public as possible. There is no security in obscurity. Does brinks just deliver millions in cash in a regular honda thinking that nobody will notice? No, the advertise the safety of their big armored trucks. No secrets, real security.
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Essential liberty and not having to interact with a government are two completely different things. Essential liberties were enumerated in the Bill of Rights so there would be no argument that speech, religion, arms, search and seizure, compelled testimony, legal representation, cruel and unusual punishment, quartering of troops, and later, equal treatment, were considered the essentials.

    There is no freedom to enter or leave the U.S. unidentified. It may surprise some people to learn there is no freedom to leave the U.S. at all and the fourth amendment doesn't apply to anybody entering or leaving the U.S. A U.S. citizen has greater rights in the U.S. than a non-citizen, so identification of each is necessary to establish who gets which rights. Likewise, someone on a fourth waiver, such as a parolee, must be identified to establish his lack of 4th amendment rights. Certain persons are prohibited from exercising their 2nd amendment rights, and must be identified. This is all very obvious to generations of Supreme Court justices.

    The main fingerprint databases I use contain an aggregate of millions of persons. The supplemental databases have millions more. The technology is pretty new, and I doubt most law enforcement agencies have it. A computer does the analysis, checking only the fingerprints, not any biographical data, so lying by arrestees or data entry errors by the processing officer are irrelevant to getting a match. Missing fingers and damaged finger pads are also not a hindrance, as long as some fingers have legible prints.

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    Flashaholic LightInTheWallet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightraven View Post
    Essential liberty and not having to interact with a government are two completely different things. Essential liberties were enumerated in the Bill of Rights so there would be no argument that speech, religion, arms, search and seizure, compelled testimony, legal representation, cruel and unusual punishment, quartering of troops, and later, equal treatment, were considered the essentials.

    There is no freedom to enter or leave the U.S. unidentified. It may surprise some people to learn there is no freedom to leave the U.S. at all and the fourth amendment doesn't apply to anybody entering or leaving the U.S. A U.S. citizen has greater rights in the U.S. than a non-citizen, so identification of each is necessary to establish who gets which rights. Likewise, someone on a fourth waiver, such as a parolee, must be identified to establish his lack of 4th amendment rights. Certain persons are prohibited from exercising their 2nd amendment rights, and must be identified. This is all very obvious to generations of Supreme Court justices.

    The main fingerprint databases I use contain an aggregate of millions of persons. The supplemental databases have millions more. The technology is pretty new, and I doubt most law enforcement agencies have it. A computer does the analysis, checking only the fingerprints, not any biographical data, so lying by arrestees or data entry errors by the processing officer are irrelevant to getting a match. Missing fingers and damaged finger pads are also not a hindrance, as long as some fingers have legible prints.
    What would happen if a hacker/criminal decided to change your print data in order to succeed at a criminal venture? Your " Last resort " option will have been compromised in a very substantial way. Name a public/private/gov accessible database that has never been hacked/compromised by bad sorts of folks and I will drop my entire arguement on the subject. ( remember the POTUSA still has launch codes for certain weapons in an unaccessible " Football " Briefcase among other security precautions.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Sometimes I can't believe what this country has come to. We used to laugh at other undemocratic systems and deride them as backwards, stupid, and even unholy.
    Look at us now, turning into the very sci-fi nazi nightmare that was the banal conversation of teenage geeks in the back in the 70s.

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Aside from the obvious abuse issue, the problem with biometrics is that it's all so new and so easy to get wrong. Some will probably remember a couple years ago when Tsutomu Matsumoto, a Japanese cryptographer, made fake fingers from Gummy Bear gel that fooled almost all of the fingerprint scanners being used by the government. The problem is not that fooling the machines was doable -- the problem was/is that an amateur could do it with cheap materials obtained anywhere and the government was completely blindsided by the weaknesses in those devices. I believe that the scanners are still in use but with an armed guard by each one.

    I would try to hold on to my biometric data as long as I could. If one of my passphrases is compromised I can change it easily enough. What do I do when my biometric fingerprint signature file is hacked, stolen or sold? That's it for my prints.

    All of this unproved hardware is being sold to them with promises of performance and security and they're putting real data into these systems -- without really having much experience and no track record to stand on. I'd rather be the last entered into the system than the first.

    Biometrics in everyday commerce would even be much worse, if that could be possible. I'll muddle through with cash until I'm dragged kicking and screaming into the future -- or present, err...whatever.

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    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    I imagine that a hacker who altered the gov fingerprint files would be sadly disapointed.

    Once they arrest you, they print you and run them. Your prints don't match the ones on file. Oops. You go free.

    We have plenty of examples where people were arrested because the matched name, date of birth and who knows what else and still go the wrong person. There was one in the paper last year.

    A good hacker can already insert a false record. The addition of biometrics will not change that too much.

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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    All I know is that fingerprint scanners and databases are an excellent way to track down criminals. There are obvious limitations, like the use of gloves. But you arrest somebody for a misdemeanor and learn he's got a murder warrant out of Washington State (recent example from our station) and it's one killer off the streets that you didn't have to do a whole big multistate (or multination) fugitive hunt to get. He just got swept up in the day-to-day dragnet of low level law enforcement (by a group of rookies fresh out of the academy, no less!)

    I sent up a convicted rapist earlier this year for felony prosecution, but I arrested him for a misdemeanor that would not have even been prosecuted. Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph, domestic bombers, were caught driving without plates and dumpster diving.

    The impetus for our fingerprint system was a scandal that involved an agency (possibly ours) that arrested a guy for a trivial misdemeanor and released him because it failed to identify him as a multiple murderer. That's what most Americans (and I) really hate--serious bad guys going free. Our current system makes those errors less likely.

    As far as hacking and corporations and sci-fi nazis and gummy bear gel (mmmm....gummy fingerprints. [drool]. . . ), I'll let you guys discuss that.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    I've read that the Brits have a print scanner that bobbies use for instant ID verification on the street.I would actually love to see more of that. In spite of my fetish for privacy and the fact that I'm somewhat of a 'ghost', the FBI has had my prints since I was 16 in 1967 when I got my first Mariner's Document, which in those days validated the bearer 'For Emergency Service.' (Now long discontimued)

    Since I have no use for a DL I'd welcome a quick, effective way to prove who I am since the fed has already had my prints forever...

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    Flashaholic* shakeylegs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Many persuasive arguments have been voiced on either side of this issue. It seems to boil down to this - if you trust the system, you see the value in biometric surveillance and if you don't trust the system, you see the potential for abuse. Having lived through the last half century, and remembering the many abuses of power by leaders, government agencies, and corporations, I tend to fall into the latter category, expecting that abuses will occur. Try googling (in the spirit of this thread, I'd use something like scroogle.org which doesn't track or log your queries) "FBI surveillance scandals", "CIA surveillance scandals", or "Corporate surveillance scandals" and decide whether audits, codes of conduct, and other precautions prevent serious abuses.
    The wallyworld spying and infiltration of consumer groups scandal is every bit as disturbing as COINTELPRO and 50's bio-warfare testing on unsuspecting US populations.

    In the past, it may have been easier to turn a blind eye to the abuses, with the justification that if you did nothing wrong you had nothing to worry about. Such rationale is less comforting with an administration as highly politicized and dismissive of constitutional principals as the current one. This administration is not the first and won't be the last. Some will be more abusive and they will have complete surveillance capabilities coupled with extensive profiles (buying habits, emails, associations, credit, asset, gps positioning by cell phone...) on each and every citizen.

    My wife grew up in communist Poland, where a blanket of paranoia hovered over everyone. The extensive domestic surveillance program might include your best friend, and you'd never know it. One slip of the tongue, one misplaced criticism of the system, the government, or the local block leader might reverberate you bleeping behind right into the can. People disappeared! It's not pretty when you are forced to live this way. Think about this when you send your next email; when you are standing in front of the atm video camera; When you swipe your credit card; when the traffic cam is watching; when you check a book out of the library; when you release your medical records; when you give up any personal information knowingly or otherwise. While I have nothing to hide, I'm thinking about it as I post this.

  25. #25
    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Forgive my innocense, but exactly how does a government agency abuse the knowledge of your fingerprints? Does some stooge sit in a back room and look for hidden messages in the swirls and loops? Do they lift fingerprints from airport restrooms, hoping to find out who was sitting next to the senator? Do they arrest you if you cut your finger and 'alter' your biometrics?

    The only realistic abuse I can think of would be when framing someone, and they don't need a biometrics database to do it. It's much easier to drop a bloddy knife in your garbage can.

    The only other case I can think of would be if you were trying to hide and the government had truely turned to a Nazi police state. But even in those cases, I'd rather the police locate the guy named Dan that they really want to kill/torture/deport and leave me alone. If society falls that low, there are other more important issues to worry about.

    I, personally, think the paranoia about a national idenification system is overblown. If the local police want to find you, they have your address, your neighbors know what you look like and you probably have some communications device. I figure it would take less than a day for most people to be located if the police spent all their resources on it.

    As a normally law abiding citizen, I don't have a lot of concern about being located. I worry more about the ambulance NOT finding my house or the doctor doing the wrong procedure because of mixed up records.

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  26. #26
    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    One of the problems is that it's impossible to know if you have something to hide from any government. During the Cold War a Russian named Viktor Suverov said, (paraphrase) You might as well resign yourself to the fact that any of your acts may become criminal at any time. Leaders change, regimes change, alliances change. What was heroic yesterday may be judged treasonous in the light of tomorrow.

    It doesn't matter what country you're in -- things may change -- the original intentions become irrelevant at that point..

    Those who say that the innocent have nothing to hide are way out on the thin ice, historically. One of the first governmental users of computers was a Scandanavian country (Netherlands?) in the 1930s. Laboriously entering population data on punch cards they created one of the first serious computer databases. When the National Socialists occupied them during WWII one of the very first things they did was run the cards and get a handy printout so they could quickly round up the Jews. ...Things may change.

    Another simple example would be commerce. A viable economy cannot exist without at least a modicum of secrecy. Studies must be funded. Decisions must be made. Long range strategies must be created. Products must be developed. Agreements must be made with suppliers. Much of it must be carried out with a certain degree of secrecy if there is to be any hope of remaining competitive and retaining market share.

    This rationale also puts the lie to the notion that honest people don't need strong encryption -- the repurcussions in business alone would be staggering if there were no secure way to communicate.

    As a man in my mid-50s who has a perfectly clean record I am another who would like to see the government have all of the tools they need to fight terror and crime. The problem as I see it is that they are awash in private data now and have absolutely no way to assimilate all of it, much less coordinate and redistribute it in a way that would serve the stated purpose for it's collection. In spite of this their voracious appetite for ever increasing amounts of data they can't put to use is insatiable. I find it alarming.
    Last edited by Sub_Umbra; 12-29-2007 at 01:11 PM.

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    Flashaholic* NA8's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Looks like another one of those yin-yang things, or double edged sword if you prefer.

  28. #28
    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by NA8 View Post
    Looks like another one of those yin-yang things, or double edged sword if you prefer.
    Nicely put.

    There is currently no single method available to verify that the police-man at your door is really a cop. There's no practical way for the TSA to be sure that the passenger at the screening checkpoint is really who they claim to be. There is no way to be sure that the person renting my house is who they claim to be.

    There is also no way to ensure that the government will not turn hostile to it's own people and use the databases to find dissidents, minorities and others they may deem undesirable.

    Some folks prefer to just stay off the radar altogether. No phone, no taxes, etc. I'm not sure that works anymore. It would not take that much extra to run through the tax records to see which addresses don't have a current tax return. Same for phones and driver licenses. "Conspicuous in it's absence" is the term that comes to mind. You'd have to live out of town, off the grid and independent of government resources (roads, buses, hospitals, etc) in order to stay hidden from such a search.

    Shakeylegs made the point that the feds have too much data to use effectively already. I have to agree. I shake my head when the TSA lets me though the airport checkpoint based on a 10 year old drivers license and a computer printed itinerary, both of which are easy to duplicate. It would be SO simple to at least scan the boarding pass to see if it's valid, and if it's been used already. Our DMV gathers thumb prints and digital pictures. How hard would it be to scan and match both of those?

    So I don't worry about gathering the information. I worry about being able to use it effectively for the public good and other proper uses.

    Daniel
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  29. #29
    Flashaholic* shakeylegs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    Quote Originally Posted by gadget_lover View Post
    Forgive my innocense, but exactly how does a government agency abuse the knowledge of your fingerprints? Does some stooge sit in a back room and look for hidden messages in the swirls and loops? Do they lift fingerprints from airport restrooms, hoping to find out who was sitting next to the senator? Do they arrest you if you cut your finger and 'alter' your biometrics?

    The only realistic abuse I can think of would be when framing someone, and they don't need a biometrics database to do it. It's much easier to drop a bloddy knife in your garbage can.

    The only other case I can think of would be if you were trying to hide and the government had truely turned to a Nazi police state. But even in those cases, I'd rather the police locate the guy named Dan that they really want to kill/torture/deport and leave me alone. If society falls that low, there are other more important issues to worry about.

    I, personally, think the paranoia about a national idenification system is overblown. If the local police want to find you, they have your address, your neighbors know what you look like and you probably have some communications device. I figure it would take less than a day for most people to be located if the police spent all their resources on it.

    As a normally law abiding citizen, I don't have a lot of concern about being located. I worry more about the ambulance NOT finding my house or the doctor doing the wrong procedure because of mixed up records.

    Daniel
    Daniel, despite your innocence, I'm sure you are aware of some of the many governmental and corporate abuses of power over the last half century. I understand that everyone will have a different view. That's why I started the thread - to hear those points of view. And I understand yours to a degree. But I can't feign innocence to abuses of power. Yet I'm prepared to live with "biometrics" and most other info gathering as I have little control over them, especially corporate. I raise the issue only to encourage thoughtful consideration by all citizens because I feel these increasingly comprehensive databases of highly personal information can and will be misused. For instance, an insurance company will sign you up, let you pay premiums for years, then when you make a legitimate claim, they'll terminate you based upon some obscure detail they suddenly "find" in your distant record.

    Is there a technology that's been created and hasn't been exploited? I suspect not. Does collection of personal data mean we live in a fascist state? Not necessarily. Does power tend to be abused? Almost always. I'd be more comfortable with any data gathering project if strict guidelines preventing abuse were established and the death penalty were imposed for gross infraction. But that won't happen. And abuses will occur.

    Clearly, we are talking about matters of degree, perception, and experience. Supporters of gun control would ban all privately held weapons to prevent the many deaths each year by firearms. Gun owners are prepared to accept the risks in order to preserve their perceived rights. Similar arguments are applied to abortion and drug laws. Such philosophical/political issues are rightly debated and laws emerge to govern our behavior. And one side, will always find reason for a dissenting opinion.

    In a country where dissent was a founding impetus, projects such as biometric gathering could in my opinion have a potentially chilling effect on political discourse. Look no further than the the chill this administration was able to cast over dissenting voices in it's march to war. "Unpatriotic!" was all it took. The mass media abdicated it's watchdog roll and political opposition rolled over. Extensive databases profiling the citizenry with highly personal information would only make such intimidation easier. Everyone has weaknesses that can be found and exploited. And though not every authority would exploit such technology, some would.

    Remember the TIPS program pushed by Bush in 2002 which would have had the FBI recruiting millions of Americans as informants?
    http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/...20725_8083.htm
    The FBI has not always handled such things gracefully http://www.truthinjustice.org/corrupt-FBI.htm

    My wife grew up in Communist Poland where a thick blanket of paranoia nestled around each and every psyche. That regime's extensive domestic surveillance branched down to street level. Your best friend might be an informant and you'd never know it. One slip of the tongue, an off-handed remark amongst friends and you'd be reported. People disappeared. Files were kept on almost all citizens. Those files are now being opened and the information contained has proven highly inaccurate. Even so, the last elected polish government tried to use those old communist files to it's advantage against it's political enemies, with some success.

    So while we can look at any info gathering system individually as useful and benign, is there a point where government and industry should be restrained from mining the essence of our personal lives?

  30. #30

    Default Re: Uncle Sam wants YOUR biometrics

    If we only talk about biometric identification by the U.S. government (where people are already required to identify themselves), I don't see much downside. Only a person who wants to falsely identify himself to the government has something to lose. Who is that? A foreign spy, a criminal or a terrorist.

    The times and places one must ID himself to the government (or on the government's orders) are occasional--opening a bank account (IRS), getting a passport (State), entering the United States (Immigration, more or less, since only U.S. citizenship is really being determined of U.S. citizens, not their specific identity), getting a job (IRS/Social Security Administration), getting on an airline (TSA). Furthermore, the agencies that are performing these identity checks don't (and often cannot) share information with other agencies, with very rare exceptions.

    What happens in facist or communist countries is an example of how to misuse a tool. They also misused guns and tanks and German Shepherds. The real solution isn't to take away the "tools of oppression," it's to remove the oppressors themselves. Didn't Beretta make guns for Mussolini? I carried a U.S. government issued Beretta for years. American tanks (like the one I trained in) use a cannon made by Rheinmetal. I don't know Rheinmetal's history, but I could take a guess. And German Shepherds are used by my agency like most military and law enforcement agencies.

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