Monday, March 26, 2007

A World Gone Mad

Written by Bob

Imagine living in a world where if you wanted to cash a cheque in a bank where you don’t hold an account or perform other normal tasks such as buying a new car you would have to give, not just the usual several forms of ID and other seemingly irrelevant information, but your thumbprint.

Your thumbprint?

As a Brit living in central Europe this seems akin to something from a George Orwell novel. However, fact is stranger, and a hell of a lot more scary, than fiction as many Americans can attest to with this thumbprint gathering now being quite standard practice in many American banks and other places of business.

This opens up so many questions for me.

What can the car dealership or the bank do with this information to stop a crime? Do they have access to the FBI banks of fingerprints to make sure you are who you say you are? Will they check out your fingerprints belong to the ID you’ve used before giving you your cash or your purchases? Is there a chain of custody and secure storage for these fingerprints so that if they were to be used as evidence they would permissible in court? Could it be proven that they were the ones you gave at that place, date and time, by you and no-one else, that they can’t have been tampered with in anyway?

Not likely, and so what is the point? Really, I don’t understand their need for your biometric data.

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of identity theft was a laughable concept only used by conspiracy theorists, but it has become a harsh reality that many people have been the victim of and judging by the number of identity thefts that have been made possible by all this extra information gathering in the last few years do you want to disclose yet more private, personal and ,with fingerprints, unchangeable if fallen into the wrong hands, information about yourself and make it even easier for this sort of thing to happen?

Could fingerprint copying be the next big scam? Could there be soon to come a blackmarket for selling other peoples fingerprints? Is there already? Is it really so hard to beat these fingerprint scanners? It’s not the same as having a credit card stolen or copied that you can cancel with a quick phone call or a password found out that you can change; your fingerprints are yours for life and if they ever made it onto some database somewhere there is nothing, short of chopping your hands off, that you could do to make them no longer applicable to you. (As a side note, what do they do about those people that have no thumbs? Are they not allowed to use those banks or buy cars? Or do they make them pee in a cup?)

Do you trust your bank or insurance company or whoever else says’s that they need this information before they can complete a transaction? Going off the amount of junk mail I receive regardless of how many of those ‘do not give my data to other companies or use for any mailing lists’ boxes I tick, (and the only UK companies that I have told about my new address since moving abroad are those of my bank, insurance company and other such, supposedly, reputable companies - you know the sort who would try to convince you that your fingerprints would be safe with them) I don’t think I’m going to allow myself to be fingerprinted any time soon.

But surely, if you have done nothing wrong then what is the harm in having your fingerprints taken? Only someone with something to hide would be upset about this sort of thing right? OK, brushing aside all the stuff about your rights to privacy and the fact that law abiding people shouldn’t be strong-armed into having to have their fingerprints taken etc etc, what harm could having your thumbprint taken really do you? Well, lets see now, how would you feel about giving the young lady at the bank your front door key or home security alarm number? How about giving your car dealer your computer password or access to your medical records? Nope?

Even these days biometric access control is being used for all these things, how long before it becomes the norm and is also used for things such as payment instead of credit and debit cards, instant access to your bank account, instead of a key for your car, access to your children’s school, to your place of work, to just about anything and everything?

Don’t believe it?

Well, there were many that never believed crazy ideas such as the internet or mobile phones would ever become ‘the norm’ either but I think I will be steering clear of being fingerprinted by my bank, thanks all the same.


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