Biometrics – No Need to Ask For Papers
Biometrics, in its various forms, has been around for ages; but never has it been perched to become the all intrusive Orwellian invasion of our personal rights than it is today.
The birth of today’s biometrics dates back to the mid 1800’s and is attributed to, among others, Francis Galton. Galton’s vision is what ultimately fueled Hitler’s vision of the super race. Galton believed that through genetic engineering the undesired traits of man could be eradicated producing an advanced species of man. Biometrics was used as the “measuring” gauge as to what was and what was not desirable traits; taking measurements of skull size and shape, inter-ocular distance, brow dimensions, finger size, etcetera. Galton believed that these outward manifestations showed a separation of the species of man between an inferior and a superior specimen of mankind.
Today rather than using these traits to determine suitability for genetic disposition the government is using similar traits to determine your societal disposition; all without your knowledge or consent. As scientists continued to study biometrics it became clear that this technology could be used to identify someone based upon their unique characteristics. This spawned the modern version of biometric identification.
The various aspects currently under use or research for biometric identification include:
– Hand/Palm print identification
– Iris pattern identification
– Facial recognition
– Speech/speaker recognition/identification
– Vascular pattern identification
– Gait/body recognition
– Facial thermography
Hand and palm identification examines the unique identifying measurements of the hand. The distance between the knuckles, the length of fingers, relationship of the joints to the main body of the hand, the lines on the hand, etcetera.
Iris pattern identification examines the unique patterns resident on the iris to determine identification. It looks at the size, shape, and formations that make up the iris. This type of identification requires a sample be obtained directly from the individual and cannot be collected passively.
Facial recognition utilizes all the measurements of the face to identify specific individuals. This includes such things as bone structure, nose placement, eye spacing, and brow protrusion, as well as relative location of facial features on the face, forehead size shape and slope, etcetera. All of these things and more are used to feed an algorithm that identifies you. This data can be obtained passively, even without the knowledge of the individual.
Speech/speaker recognition uses your physical speech tract and mouth movements to identify individuals. Much of this data can be gathered simply by eavesdropping and recording conversations, again without the knowledge of the individual.
Vascular pattern identification is derived by scanning the hand with a near infrared device to determine the unique specifications of the blood vessels in your hand. They look at blood vessel thickness, branching angles and branching points. Though a collector of this data would have to be in close proximity to the individual this data can be collected without the individual’s knowledge.
Gait/body recognition uses the unique way in which you walk, your arm swing, the pivots of your hip/leg/ankle joints, which all combine to define a unique characteristic to help identify you. This is obtained using video and special software to analyze the data and come up with a unique “signature” identifying you.
One additional identification scheme, though not a true biometric system, is the use of dynamic signature technology which examines the way an individual signs his signature or other familiar phrase. This is done by measuring the dynamic pressure, stroke, direction, and shape of an individual’s signature. From this they can ascertain if the individual is the person belonging to the signature. As it does not actually look at the signature itself, just tracing the signature will not validate the person making the trace signature. This data must be collected on a special device that allows for the comparison signature to be matched against can cannot easily be obtained without the subject individuals knowledge.
Each item listed above has some very useful applications within out society. To a willing participant involved with a government intelligence agency, corporate security, hazardous chemicals or biological contaminates, or the myriad of other areas where strict identification for access to sensitive information and materials are needed, these processes would be a great advancement in site security and personnel identification.
The government agencies collecting the data for use with these technologies declare that this is being done for our “security.” Do we really believe this is true when they knowingly allow thousands of illegal aliens to flood across the borders knowing that small percentages are Muslim extremists? Do we really believe this is true when there are known Muslim training camps within the borders of our own nation that are allowed to continue to operate?
If the focus of this technology is to make us safer from the hordes of radical extremists out there trying to kill us; then why is the government building a database based on their own citizens? Could it be that they ARE collecting on the enemy and the enemy is us?
In comparison; one of the processes used in building a case against a criminal is to build an association chart of anyone that a suspected criminal comes in contact with. You then look at other known bad guys and determine if there is any linkage between the known bad guy and the suspected bad guy. This is also how they expand their list of “known” bad guys is to determine who the bad guy associates with. All of this data is fed into computers that analyze these associations and marry that up with phone records, shopping records, bank accounts, credit cards, etcetera. This then builds a profile of that person and their place in the suspected organization.
Then they assign people to follow the suspect and take pictures of anyone that meets the suspect and try to identify them and expand the association chart. Now, what if a scientist comes up with a really neat tool that can make immediate identification of anyone in a national criminal database based on their biometric features? You would think that was great let’s use it. Now what if you were the government and a scientist stated we have a product that will be able to identify anyone anywhere in the United States simply by viewing that individual on any camera linked to the system based on their biometric readings? And this is exactly what they want to do. But in order to make this possible everyone’s identifying data must be entered into the system, whether they consent or not.
With the previous investigative scenario in mind; lets say you are walking down the street and someone you have never really met before stops and asks a few questions, possibly for directions or if you are familiar with the restaurants in the neighborhood. If that fellow is the suspect bad guy, you have now been identified by your biometrics and you are now associated with known criminals.
There are cameras now watching every aspect of our public lives. We have cameras watching us drive through intersections, on the highway watching our speed, on the streets watching us walk from place to place, at the ATM or the store monitoring out purchases and behavior. In some places they have cameras at peaceful rallies filming demonstrators for later identification and cataloging individuals who are participating in perfectly legal activities.
Another question to ask ourselves is; if this data collection and spying on the citizens of this nation is found to not be a violation of our rights then from where in the Constitution does the government derive is authority to collect this kind of data on the citizens of the states of the union? According to the Constitution the only branch of government that can pass legislation is the Congress. The enumerated powers given to Congress are located at Article 1, Section 8 which defines the areas that Congress can pass laws, which states: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes…To borrow money…To regulate Commerce…To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization…To coin money…To provide for punishment of counterfeiting…To establish Post Offices…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…To constitute Tribunals…To define and punish Piracies…To declare war…To raise and support armies…To provide and maintain a navy…To make rules for the government…To provide for calling forth the Militia…for disciplining the Militia…To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District…To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers…” Period that is it! Do you see any justification for the government to collect this kind of data from the citizens? I do not!
Now some may argue that the last line above gives the government carte blanch to write whatever laws it deems necessary. However the “make all laws” clause is predicated upon the foregoing powers enumerated above. If they do not have the authority in the first place they cannot pass laws to expand their authority. Therefore, passing any law that does not ground itself within the enumerated powers granted to the government in the Constitution is void and the government is overstepping the bounds of it’s authority.
Our Constitution was designed to allow only specific enumerated powers that our government was to operate within. The bill of rights was the people’s guarantee that the government could not trespass on these rights, or any other items deemed to be rights of the citizens or the states of the union. One of these rights is the Fourth Amendment, which reads in part: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, …and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons, or things to be seized.” As with the collecting of fingerprints, DNA, and other personal identifying traits the collecting agency must get a court order to do so and must establish probable cause that a crime has or will be committed by that individual.
There is also understood to be the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the right to free travel within the union upon any public roadway. The government has no business monitoring the whereabouts of the peaceful citizen’s of this nation. Remember the government can only operate, legally, within the strict sense of the enumerated powers given them in the Constitution. The Posse Comitatus Act was written to ensure the government did not spy on its own people, and if it did it required a warrant based upon probable cause. Make no mistake when they utilize these technologies they are gathering data/intelligence against the American people. This is no different than a wire tap, intercepting email transmissions, or opening your mail. It is a violation of our rights and a betrayal of the Constitution and the public trust.
So again I ask you, has the government now found probable cause that all Americans are enemies of the state and they now can spy on each and every one of us as we go about our daily lives. If the government was indeed trying to defend US against the hordes of extremists would they not be pointing their cameras out instead of in?
Based on the 9/11 commission an over-watch board was created called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The job of this board was to watch over the various entities of government and report on their compliance to laws concerning citizen’s rights with respect to privacy violations; one of these programs was the Bio-metrics program. In May of 2007 a member of the board named Lanny J. Davis resigned stating that one of the reasons he was resigning was the lack of independence of the board. That the reports they submitted were substantively changed before being presented to the public. In his letter to President Bush Mr. Davis stated: “I also believe that it is important for the White House staff and others in the administration to understand that you insist on the Board’s complete independence – not subject to White House or administration supervision or control. Only with such independence can the Board provide you and future presidents with the important function of effective oversight to ensure that this appropriate balance is maintained in the challenging years ahead.”
In a letter to his fellow board members he relayed: “I also continue to be concerned that there may be current and developing anti-terrorist programs affecting civil liberties and privacy rights of which the Board has neither complete knowledge nor ready access.”
Here we have a member of the White House’s own over-watch program resigning because they are not allowed to do their job. Their reports are changed to reflect what the executive wants them to say, ignoring the truth. They are not allowed access to programs that are or may be infringing on civil liberties.
On January 30 of this year the term for the remaining board members expired. As of March 1 the board has yet to be manned leaving what little oversight we had totally void.
Also announced this year is the FBI’s One Billion dollar project to create the largest computer database of bio-metric baseline data. This project will make available to the government the ability to identify and track millions of people including their own citizens. Compound this with the massive data-mining project collecting shopping habits, reading habits, individual buying trends, citizen movements, where we buy our gas, who we talk to, even what movies we watch. Now they will be able to confirm we actually attended that movie because we were identified standing in line.
All of this data will be shared with law enforcement around the world, not only for crime and the war on terrorism but for private employees to check up on their employees and screening potential employees. And just like every other governmental system that has ever been created the potential for abuse is enormous.
So what are my primary concerns when it comes to using bio-metrics for identification?
1. All of this data is compartmented into database friendly format and is rife for abuse and sale to nefarious customers.
2. The government is collecting data on everyone in the hopes of catching a bad guy. As with the firearms laws they are treating all persons as the enemy until they prove themselves to be otherwise. Except they then keep on treating everyone as the bad guy anyway because that’s how their trained.
3. This program only identifies individuals it cannot reveal motive or intent to commit terrorism or any other act simply from the act of identifying an individual. And if it is only identification that is required why not only database those known terrorists we are trying to locate. Hunt for the bad guys, ohh right I forgot we are all the bad guys.
4. Unless every citizen is willing to submit their signature data the base line being compared against is only as good as the data being gathered. And if we do not voluntarily submit how can the accuracy of the data be validated.
5. What overwhelming need does the government have to know who was at the mall on any particular day or time? To what extent does the citizen’s right to travel in his pursuit of happiness now become the government’s business?
6. It is estimated that 1% of the population may not have suitable features and may lead to false identification. This would leave nearly 3 million people in a limbo of suspicion that may lead to unwarranted detainment or harassment solely for their bio-metrics.
7. Finally, a society in which every move is tracked, however unobtrusively, is not a free society. And as our founders were reluctant to having a standing army watching over there every move, we too should be as outraged; having our own government watching over our every move.
In 1774 Thomas Jefferson wrote in “Rights of British America” that : “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.” As with the British rule it was through a long train of events that lead to the identification of tyranny, not a single event. When we combine the multitude of legislative Acts, governmental programs, executive orders, and unconstitutional laws the federal government has enacted in the last 75 years we start to see a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.
We currently find ourselves monitored, analyzed, tracked, cataloged, and scrutinized more today than at any time in history. Many would argue that we have never had the degree of technology to achieve such advanced scrutiny. However, this is not about technological capability this is about accountability. This is about right and wrong. If we are truly living in a free society than doing this is wrong. If on the other hand using this technology against our own people is the right thing to do, then we are no longer free.