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Biometrics: Beyond hype and hysteria

In response to the August 8 Perspectives column by Oliver Tattan, "Biometrics: Beyond hype and hysteria":

I read your article about biometrics. Interesting stuff and ostensibly all very plausible. One particular phrase grabbed my attention: "Biometric authentication technologies--and an integrated biometric trust infrastructure--will allow users to maintain their identities across multiple locations, thereby increasing personal privacy while simultaneously establishing a higher level of physical and digital security. It can also help relieve security "pain points" at airports, international borders and internal enterprise systems."

Am I just not getting it or is there a gargantuan leap being made here to get to the "thereby increasing personal privacy" bit? Who are the "ethical users" and "trusted third parties" that these infrastructures require? Corporations? Politicians? Police forces? Without getting too paranoid, it's hard to conceive of a global or ubiquitous biometric/security infrastructure that will not be abused to the detriment of individuals and personal privacy.

Is this just another example of corporate double-speak. Nicely worded convincing arguments, at first glance, but on closer inspection completely devoid of logic, validity and, indeed, meaning. Has doing business degenerated into an exercise in propaganda, sound bites and political lobbying? Or maybe that's what it has always been.

Anyway, I believe that technology infrastructures that will have far-reaching and profound social and economic effects deserve frank, open and honest analysis and discussion. Lets not delude ourselves, there is an inherent conflict between the desirable states of security and privacy. When you get more of one, you get less of the other. Glibly glossing over this fact, in the commercial interests of a currently "hot" industry sector, is not acceptable for a society that will be deeply impacted by this technology.

Paddy Ryan
Dublin, Ireland