Being the inveterate geek I am, it is unusual to find me outside on a non-overcast day without a pair of sunglasses wrapped around my head – currently, a set of black-on-black Oakley Canteens that I procured when I was eligible for Oakley’s military/government purchasing program (something all military members should make use of while they can). However, if this technology starts going mainstream, I may never leave the house in general without a darker pair of shades:
We’ve all seen and obsessively referenced Minority Report, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian future, when the public is tracked everywhere they go, from shopping malls to work to mass transit to the privacy of their own homes. The technology is here–I’ve seen it myself. And it’s seen me–and scanned my irises.
Announced today, biometrics R&D firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) is rolling out its iris scanning technology to create “the most secure city in the world,” according to the company. In a partnership with Leon, one of the largest cities in Mexico with a population of more than 1 million, GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners that will help law enforcement–and soon marketers–revolutionize the way we live.
“In the future, whether it’s entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris,” says Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers, who, before coming to GRI, headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT. “Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected within the next 10 years.”
He says that like it is a good thing.
Look, I have absolutely no illusions that my bank, my credit card company, and the people who can legally and illegally access that information know far more about me than I would ever want them to. I have a Kroger card. I shop online. Hell, I browse online without going through a few blind proxies and whatnot. So long as you engage in those kinds of activities on a regular basis, the concept of “personal privacy” is almost well and truly dead.
But that is the catch, is it not? You have a choice as to whether to use a credit card or not. You have a choice about using the internet, and what kind of security levels you want to impose. And once you go down those roads, you can cut all ties, cancel all your cards, so on, so forth, and try to recover what privacy you have left – it would not be easy, and it certainly would not be 100% effective, but it is still a choice.
Casting out your eyes seems like a hell of a crappy choice, in comparison, and while “heading for the hills” is certainly an alternative, consider how integrated Mr. Carter wants his technology to become. More to the point, observe how he is already employing the “if you follow the rules, you have nothing to worry about” fallacy:
For such a Big Brother-esque system, why would any law-abiding resident ever volunteer to scan their irises into a public database, and sacrifice their privacy? GRI hopes that the immediate value the system creates will alleviate any concern. “There’s a lot of convenience to this–you’ll have nothing to carry except your eyes,” says Carter, citing how of-age consumers will no longer be carded at bars and liquor stores. “And it’s interesting: When you get masses of people opting-in, opting out does not help. Opting out actually puts more of a flag on you than just being part of the system. We believe everyone will opt-in.”
Well, if that quote does not send shivers up your spine, I do not want to know you… So if you do not “opt-in” to this authoritarian, voyeuristic, and intrusive system, your life will be made progressively more and more difficult, and those entities in positions of power will view your non-integration in a negative light? Wait, this argument is supposed to encourage me to opt-in? Complete and total fail there, mate.
Why? Well, Robb gives you the seeds:
This type of technology, while awfully convenient, is fraught with 100% chance of abuse. And many, many people will simply bow down to their masters’ feet and beg to not be abused so long as they can purchase their energy drink without ever stopping by a register.
Half of the information the government has it cannot be bothered to keep secure, and the other half would just be so very useful that government agencies across the country would be pounding down doors trying to do their own oh-so-important datamining… especially because the system intends to be as convenient as possible, and thus have as many users as possible. From there, it is just a few utterances of “for the common good”, “for your own good”, “think of the children”, and “stop the terrorists” until Minority Report‘s depiction of people being scanned everywhere becomes a commonly-accepted reality.
Think it could never happen here? I bet you also think America never had internment camps.
At least, as one of the commenters at the news article said, the folks at Global Rainmakers Inc. are being honest about their motivations and desires… would that more people proposing similar systems follow their lead. So how does one nominate organizations for the Big Brother Awards?
Me, I am really digging Oakley’s new Jawbone glasses – polarized, colored lenses for the day, yellow, ANSI-rated, vented lenses for the range. Two birds with one stone and all that…
(Courtesy of Random Nuclear Strikes.)