CNET News reports that a number of countries are about to launch trials of passports and visas that incorporate basic biometric information about the document holder alongside the traditional photo and passport number – data such as a digital image of the citizen’s face that will be compared to a facial scan taken at the airport.
For the past few years, I’ve been participating in a ground-breaking biometric ID scheme in The Netherlands that enables me to go through immigration at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in less than 10 seconds, without showing anyone a passport.
Called Privium, it takes the form a of credit card-size piece of plastic with a chip in which is embedded basic biometric data about me plus digitized info from a scan of my iris taken when I first joined the programme. To use the Privium card, I put it in a special card reader at immigration which scans the data; I then hold my eye over an iris scanner which compares the scan with the digitized version from the card. If all matches up, I’m on my way.
Civil libertarians have been pretty vocal with their fears about potential infingements of civil liberties with such technological ID systems. Yet tighter controls on people – not only in crossing borders but also from a general proving your identity point of view – is an inevitable fact of future life. If technology can provide the controls and governments provide credible assurances of information confidentiality while still enabling relatively free movement of people, you’re likely to see more willing acceptance of such societal needs.