10News TV in San Diego, Calif., takes a look at the privacy questions raised by the Department of Homeland Security’s plan to test iris scanners at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas in October. In August, DHS released a privacy impact assessment (pdf) on “Iris and Face Technology Demonstration and Evaluation,” noting that there would be trials of the biometric devices.
In related news, last month, Fast Company reported that Leon, Mexico, (population: 1 million) will place iris scanners in public to track people as they go about their daily lives. Supporters of the eye-scanning systems compare them to “digital scarlet letters,” which would distinguish criminals from the innocent.
Similar scanners are already in use at airports in England, but Homeland Security will test the technology on illegal immigrants at the border next month, including cameras that work some 4 feet away, scanning people as they walk by.
Here’s how it works: first, a person has to be enrolled, then a picture is taken of the iris and the digital image is converted into a mathematical representation.
The next time the person walks by the scanner, that image-turned-math equation can be compared to confirm identity in seconds. […]
“We are concerned cameras could be used covertly,” Rebecca Rauber of the ACLU said.
The ACLU in San Diego believes the high-tech cameras could track people without their knowledge.
“There’s the potential that all of us, collectively, could lose our privacy,” Rauber said.
For now, though, Homeland Security will only say they’re testing the technology to determine its potential.