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"walls of the city" logo conceptualized by Oleg Volk and executed by Linoge. Logo is © "walls of the city".

seeing you clearly

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.)

3 comments to seeing you clearly

  • As it pertains to the internment of Japanese Americans, we really dodged a bullet there. Imagine if the luck at Midway had gone to the other side. What would the life expectancy of those rounded up bee if the Japanese invaded and controlled a decent swath of the west coast?

  • bob r

    _Everybody_ will be “identified” if scanners of this type become ubiquitous.
    Here’s how:
    a) You will be at some place where you are scanned AND “they” know by some other means that you were there.
    b) Item “a)” will occur a sufficient number of times that “they” can correlate your scan with your identity.

    Once “b)” has occurred “they” will know _everyplace_ (with a scanner), and what time, that you have been since the scanner was put into operation. It would only be a matter of time before they would have your complete history. Effectively, there is no “opting out”.

    Definitely fails the “Jews in the attic test”. In a catastrophic fashion: they would know all about you before you even realized you needed to hide the “Jews”.

  • @LC Scotty – Honestly, I would prefer not to think about it… those camps are a dim enough stain on our collective history as it is; the thought that our country could have, and almost definitely would have, taken the situation a step farther is even more disturbing.

    It is unquestionably unfortunate that more Americans are not familiar with that blemish on our history, though… it would be far easier to explain our paticular reticence over any form of registration!

    @bob r – Well, to be fair, there are ways of jamming retina scanners, even now, and I can guarandamntee you that once these things go mainstream, there will be even more ways that will be even harder to combat. Likewise, there are ways of intereacting with society that do not leave a trail – sure, they are a pain in the arse, but they are manageable if you are willing.

    That said, the scanners unquestionably fail the “Jews in the Attic” test, in that they allow for nearly-real-time monitoring of the comings and goings of everyone registered, and anyone captured who’s eyes eventually get registered. Backtracking information would be child’s play, and from there, no one could be hidden anywhere.

    Unfortunately, some people see this as a benefit, and not a bug.



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