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April 21, 2011 / assembled

Privacy: A Look at Biometrics and Location-Based Technology

Everyone wants to know where all this social, digital technology is taking us. The rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have led us to the rise of sites like Gowalla and Foursquare, both of which make giving your physical location a social, sharing activity. Some of us have some concerns about privacy, but for most, the benefits (discounts and special sales given for checking in) outweigh the perceived risks.

Though the rise of location-based social sharing sites and the use of location and GPS softwares are already quite prevalent and common throughout our daily lives, some have started to question what it all means. If you have an iPhone, you might be slightly more anxious about your privacy after reading this article from the Wall Street Journal. As it turns out, your iPhone  keeps a record of where the phone has been and when it was there; this is about as close to real-time surveillance as you can get. But aren’t most of us voluntarily sharing this information already?

In case you want some insights as to where this is leading us, let’s take a look at this article titled “The Convergence of Biometrics, Location, and Surveillance” from O’Reilly Radar. The article explores the idea of biometrics which are the elements that makes humans distinct from one another. The most readable biometrics include our fingerprints and our iris, which is the colored part of the eye. As everything is starting to move onto the web, and everything starts to consolidate onto our phones, biometrics will become increasingly important.

With the rise of mobile payments and transactions, it is clear that our phones are well on their way to becoming our wallets. Furthermore, our phones are being used to consolidate some of the clutter in our wallets; why carry our gym membership card, metro card, and various other membership and discount cards when they could all be stored on our phones? In fact, the Japanese are already using their phones for their Oyster cards with great success, and with little fraud or theft.

But given the perceived threat of having all of our most important financial data and information in one central place, our phone, the emergence of biometrics will be used not only to identify people who can’t necessarily identify themselves (includes children and people in accidents), but also might be used as a way of allowing access to our phones.

Though the article’s contributors are mixed about the pros and cons of biometrics and surveillance technologies, they agree on one idea: “The biggest danger is that over time our society will just accept surveillance as part of the cultural landscape.” As these technologies continue to move into new frontiers, we must all be vigilant of our own personal safety, as well as how we choose to use technologies, knowing very well that there are both benefits, but very serious risks.

Image: Camera Video de Surveillance by Frederic Bisson

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One Comment

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  1. Celeste / Apr 25 2011 4:31 am

    I feel like I am a little less conservative with social media compared to my friends. I am always interested in seeing what the next big social media trend will be, and trying it out. I will admit some applications I like and some I do not…but you never know until you try. Of course privacy is a big issue with social media, but I think that as long as people are smart with how they are using each application, and keeping in mind who your friends are on various platforms, there should not be any problem.

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