Not sure how I feel about this story, not just because large-scale biometric databases surface a whole new level of questions about the balance between the right to privacy and the need for large institutions (corporations, governments) to maintain security -- but also because I was behind the curve in realizing that biometrics had reached a whole new level of adoption.
Biometrics R&D firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) announced today that it is rolling out its iris scanning technology to create what it calls "the most secure city in the world." In a partnership with Leon -- one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million -- GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners. That will help law enforcement revolutionize the way we live -- not to mention marketers.
According to the Chief Development Officer of GRI, "Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected within the next 10 years."
Quick side note: If this is true, GRI might want to rebrand as their present corporate identity doesn't exactly inspire confidence in their shepherding/governance of private data. Especially with statements like the following:
"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."
Despite my distaste of sweeping statements, I agree with GRI and other observers in recognizing these technologies are coming soon to a public space near you (unless, as some theorize, they are here already). I do think that opt-out needs to be left on the table, and that restrictions need to be lobbied for in when/where/how these technologies are used. Aaron Saenz from Singularity Hub has the most practical perspective I've seen on the subject:
"Rather than fight the advent of biometrics, I'd rather focus on controlling how such data is used. We can pressure governments to insure that people are not unjustly placed on watch-lists. We can require businesses to divorce our identities from collected data to make advertisements anonymous even as they are personalized. We can limit who can use these technologies, and how, even as we accept that they will be widely adopted in the future."
He adds, "The crucial moment to guide the path of this emergent technology has arrived. Blink and you could miss it."