Your eyes give you away

Capturing identity from 40 feet away through iris scanning. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a system that can scan your iris from 40 feet away and use it to recognise you. 

So far iris based recognition required a scan by a device placed a few cm from your eye. With the new system a camera in a department store would be able to recognise you. On the one hand it might seem nice! No fuss, and your identity is checked. On the other hand the implication on privacy are strong.

Iris scan provides a much more accurate identification and the fact that this can happen without you being aware may be bothersome to many of us.

At EIT Digital we have an area focusing on Privacy, along with Security and Trust. The problem with technology evolution is that we are losing control on the whole picture. 

Something may seem agreeable, like having your car recognising you and automatically unlocking the doors, or your phone doing the same, and we start to take it for granted that our "stuff" can recognise us. And then, after a while, also stuff that is no longer "our" will recognise us and we no longer have any control onto that once a physical aware proximity is no longer there.

Psychologists (read the article) are pointing out that whilst people may not realise the implications as soon as they become aware of physiologically based identification most of them feel uneasy. Regulatory frameworks differ in different world regions, Europe being the most strict in terms of privacy protection. An additional concern brought forward by remote iris scanning is the fact that your identification data are no longer under your control, they are probably stored somewhere in the cloud, and "somewhere" means that a number of servers will hold your data with no control whatsoever on your side. Quite a different situation from the fingerprint identification done by your iPhone where all data is stored in your device.

As technology shines making our future brighter, so are shadows getting darker.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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