Big Brother meets Minority Report with this new identity recognition technology.
Advanced iris scanning software developed by engineers at Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab Biometrics Center can identify people from up to 40 feet away and is even accurate when the person’s eye is scanned from reflections in their car’s side and rear-view mirrors.
According to Marios Savvides, one of the system’s developers, this is the first reliable long-distance iris scanner.
Previous iris scanning technology required the person to willingly walk up to the device to have their eye scanned, but this new system can discreetly scan a person’s eyes and face as they walk by, without their knowledge or consent.
The technology records the unique pattern in a person’s iris and then matches it to a name stored in a database in real time.
The system is similar to fingerprint identification, except that it can be done from a distance and without direct physical contact with the person being scanned.
One can imagine a number of both good and bad uses for this technology.
On the plus side, this system has a number of law enforcement and national security uses.
Police could use this technology during traffic stops to identify the driver before approaching the vehicle. This would lessen the likelihood of routine traffic stops ending tragically for cops.
This technology could also be used to quickly scan travelers at airports which would decrease wait times and help to pinpoint dangerous people or potential terrorists.
In addition, there are already plans in the works to use this new system to identify children that have been abducted and transported abroad by human sex trafficking networks.
However, recent studies show that widespread adoption of this new type of identification system will have to overcome numerous public opinion obstacles as well as a host of tricky legal and data security issues.
You can already imagine disturbing scenarios where this type of identification system could be used for stalking people and their personal contacts in public places.
Another intrusive use for this technology is ad targeting, like the kind depicted in the movie Minority Report, where people are shown personalized ads in real-time as they go about their day.
In a recent interview, Mr. Savvides dismissed privacy concerns by noting that people’s locations are already being tracked constantly by governments and corporations, including their purchases and habits, through credit card records and customer loyalty cards.
He went on to say that if someone wants to identify you and track you on any given day, they don’t need facial recognition or iris scanning technology to do that.
Iris scanning technology, in one form or another, has been in use for years in various parts of the world.
Police in the United States have been scanning the irises of people in custody for around four years now.
Several years ago, India’s government started scanning the irises of every citizen and uses the scans to assign each person a unique identification number, which are required to use government services.
Iris scanning technology is now being used in digital consumer products to identify users and replace the need for passwords.
Fujitsu plans to offer an iris identification system on future smartphones, which can be used to unlock the phone; log into Facebook’s social network as well as email accounts and other online services.
Iris scanning systems are also starting to be used for electronic commerce and payment systems.
Although impressive, iris scanning identification is far from perfect and can still be tricked by hackers using “forged irises” that can be reverse engineered from a person’s digital photos.