Dave Maass from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Dr. Jon Padfield hosted a panel on biometrics, “Biometrics Identification: Sorting Fact From Fiction” in the EFF track held in room 201 of the Hilton.
Dr. Padfield related some interesting anecdotes about his participation in developing signature recognition. He elaborated on how current tech does not simply compare a static image of the signature, but factors in speed and pressure (when so equipped) as well. When using a static image, it is possible to duplicate what a signature looks like effectively enough to fool many, even most, readers with enough practice. However, when factoring in pressure and speed at which the signature is written, it becomes virtually impossible to duplicate the signature.
Dave Maass helps the public file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) papers, among other things. He spoke about some rather scary technology that is currently being employed by San Diego Regional Planning Agency (SANDAG). A number of tablets and smart phones have been distributed to law enforcement officers. These are linked to an image recognition database, allowing officers to take a picture of someone, and immediately run a check on them. While technically they are only supposed to use it during legitimate stops, there is a growing mound of anecdotal evidence this is not the case.
The crowd provided the panelists with excellent interaction. Some of the best points raised were how to get involved in learning how biometrics are being introduced into your local government, understanding that biometrics work on statistical models, not absolutes, and how biometrics have tremendous potential for privacy abuse.
The panel ended with a reminder that as we become more connected, and as technology pervades our daily lives, we must be ever vigilant and encourage our governments to take steps to limit the use of technology before it becomes so pervasive that we cannot extricate ourselves from the quagmire.