Ars Technica reports that AOptix is seeking to add iris scans to airport security screenings in the United States. The company’s biometric scanners are already being used at facilities abroad:
CAMPBELL, CALIFORNIA—As I stand in AOptix’ demo room, I stare down the cameras built into a plastic column, reminiscent of the public safety call boxes I remember from college. I’ve never had my iris scanned before, and I’m asked to remove my glasses first.
The column blares out at me on a small screen: LOOK HERE.
I look. A small glow of red infrared light fills part of the column above the screen, and in just a few seconds, I’m confirmed: OK.
About a minute before, I had consented to give my iris data to the company. The tower, known as InSight Duo, took a scan of my iris to set up the “known record” of me. Had this been a real-life airport security station and my iris already part of its records, InSight could scan me in a few seconds, and I could be on my way.
The company claims it can scan more accurately, more quickly (six seconds), and at a greater distance (two meters) than any of its competitors. Most conventional iris scanners have to be used at a much closer distance and be held for far longer than six seconds. If AOptix is right, the company’s InSight Duo iris scanner will become the norm in airports and border crossings around the world, changing, and hopefully improving, the way we all experience security checkpoints. However, like any new identity technology, privacy questions abound. […]
While the company has struggled to gain deployment around the United States—limited so far to a handful of Department of Defense facilities—AOptix has some of its devices in London’s Gatwick airport. So far, however, its best deployment has come in Qatar. Last year, the company announced the completion of bringing its InSight Duo scanners to all Qatari air, sea, and the country’s only land border with Saudi Arabia. All travelers entering or leaving the country must have their iris recorded into an immigration database. […]
Privacy experts remain concerned though. As more and more biometrics become more widespread, it is a risky proposition to use as the primary way to identify travelers. Plus, why should we, the traveling public, trust a private company to retain our iris records safely?
“Information security will be critical for the use of iris scanners,” writes Woodrow Hartzog, a privacy expert and professor at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, in an e-mail sent to Ars.
“One of the most significant problems with biometrics is that the compromise of personal data is presumptively permanent. New passwords can always be created, but we’ve only got one set of eyeballs and fingerprints. Biometric identification systems have been compromised in the past, sometimes with relative ease. A significant enough data breach could render an entire verification system unreliable.”
Read the full article for much more about the biometric technology and privacy questions about its use on the general public.