Friday, September 7, 2012

Which Would You Choose: Privacy or Security?

Carnegie Mellon University’s Pedo-Biometrics Lab in Pittsburgh, PA has a joint project with a Canadian company, Autonomous ID.  The project is a security scanner that is built into the in-soles of shoes.  These in-soles will be used at high security companies, power plants and military bases to screen employees attempting to gain access to high risk areas.

The idea for this type of device came to Todd Gray, President of Autonomous ID, when he visited his daughter right after she gave birth.  Gray noticed that the walls of the maternity ward were decorated with the footprints of all the babies who were born there.  When he saw this, he realized that each person’s footprints were as unique as their fingerprints.  To start the project, Gray paid $1.5 million to Pedo-Biometrics Lab.  

Security or privacy?  The choice is yours.
These special in-soles will have sensors that measure the amount of pressure each step places on specific areas.   Height, weight and gait are all factors used to make these measurements.   When an employee is fitted with these in-soles, he or she will walk around so his or her data can be stored in a master file located in microcomputers.  From this master file, security clearance level will be confirmed.  If confirmed, access to the area will be granted; a silent alarm will be triggered if the employee does not have clearance.   

Preliminary tests that were run on in-sole samples demonstrated that there is an accuracy rate of 99% after only three steps.  Further tests are taking place that will take such factors as dieting, athleticism and nationality into account.  Tests will also be done on fraternal and identical twins.  Mr. Gray is of the opinion that there is less of a privacy risk to these in-soles as opposed to eye scans. 

Attorney Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) doesn’t fully agree with that opinion.    “Every biometric capture device is a potential tracking device, just like every iPhone is a potential tracking device.  That’s just the way things are.” is the statement made by Mr. Tien.  He did, however, feel that the in-soles “might make a person feel a little bit better” about their security.  Another positive point Tien made was that the identification accuracy rate of 99% after merely three steps is “pretty impressive”.

Can you be tracked without consent?
There was a negative side that Tien saw:  these in-soles could be inserted into an employee’s shoes without his knowledge or consent.  In this respect, they could be considered a “spy tool”.

Thinking about all the pros and cons, I can’t imagine allowing my employer to know everywhere I go, even on my time off from work.  I would simply feel like I was being stalked.  I’m not willing to give up my privacy like that.

Privacy is our greatest asset and we should not be willing to risk it.  Learn how to protect yourself both on line and off by taking a few minutes to download the free Internet Privacy Guide at the top of this page.  Isn’t it worth a few minutes to learn how to keep your privacy safe?

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