There’s an old maxim: “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” This may be one of those cases. Iris scanning technology is here, but is being challenged over privacy concerns. The machine takes a picture of your eyeball from a few feet away, then checks it against a database, just like fingerprinting. Iris scanners could be used at airports, border crossings, and other security checkpoints, in the search for criminals and terror suspects. Some success is already being claimed in India, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
This seems like a very big deal, and something worth considering carefully. Here are just a few of my pros and cons:
- It’s pretty much fool proof when it comes to identification. Whereas fingerprint scanning and facial recognition make somewhat common errors (1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100, respectively), iris scanning would make only one false ID for every 100 million scans. Pretty impressive.
- Iris scanners would give us an alternative to those body scanners that everyone hates so much. Not much to elaborate on here. Like me, you’re probably praying every time you go to the airport that you don’t have to deal with that thing.
- Almost all security measures in airports are designed to make the public think they’re safer, not to actually make the public safer. This would be no exception. If someone is determined to hijack or blow up a plane, they’ll find a way. Iris scanning, IMHO, won’t really keep us safer.
- This could become a pretty invasive technology. The ACLU points out that there would be no way to control when and where these scanners are employed. Remember that scene in Minority Report in which Tom Cruise gets scanned and then he gets bombarded with personalized advertisements? That would be annoying at best.
I think I could be pushed over the fence into either camp at this point. What are your thoughts? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Will the relentless march of technology dictate that we get the machines whether we like it or not? Leave me a comment below.