Scenario: People interacting with organisations on the basis of a biometric or other body based authenticator

This is an increasingly common situation, with people gaining access to government or corporate services through authenticating biometric features (fingerprints, palm, iris, face, voice, gaut, odour, etcetera).  Driven by a strong and expanding industry, the use of biometrics in organisational settings is rapidly expanding, in two ways. Ever more bodily features are being used for authentication, for instance body odor, but more significantly DNA. The UK DNA data base, for instance, carries the profiles of about 5.5, million people and was set up for crime detection. However, the sectors and purposes in which DNA authentication is used, are expanding, in parallel with the ever wider  spread of biometric authentication in somewhat unexpected places like churches, pre-schools, homeless shelters or sports centres.

What is expected or explored for the future

  • In pop culture and science fiction biometric authentication towards an organisation is a staple trope. In crime TV series, facial recognition and fingerprints offer the investigators all powerful means to track the criminals; Spooks and 24 are the typical examples. In cinema, it is usually the government or big corporations that abuse biometrics to curtail the freedom of individuals; Orwell’s 1984 still offers the key framework for these narratives, for instance in The BourneTrilogy.
  • This is also the area where the strongest public and political concerns for the future have been expressed, especially with respect to a potential loss of privacyissues surrounding data protection and the export of these technologies to oppressive regimes.
  • This opposition has also been expressed in the sousveillance movement. Some of their participants have implanted a camera in the back of their heads to ‘watch-the-watchers’. Such sousveillance, however, more often happens through the use of wearable cameras (tokens).

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