Biometric data refers to any data that is generated from physical or psychosomatic traits of an individual. Biometric data can include finger prints, retina, iris, DNA, outline of the hand, ear, voice, face, and body smell (Ratha, Connell and Bolle 2001). This data can also be generated from behavioural data like handwriting or keystroke analysis. Basically, a digitized pattern is generated from the data.
A comparison is then made between the template and what an individual presents as a reader, that is, the physical information. There are three basic kinds of biometric data. The first one is raw images that consist of recognizable data such as fingerprints, outline of a hand, etc. and the second kind is encrypted images that consist of data that can be utilized to create an image.
The third kind is encrypted partial data that consist of incomplete data generated from an image. It is encrypted and cannot be utilized in recreating the total original image (BoozAllen 2009). With the increase in insecurity and terrorism around the world, there has been a renewed interest by the government in collecting biometric data and maintaining it in a database. Other proposals include its use in identity cards, and at the airports.
This is to include facial-recognition and video surveillance technology. The Government is intending that all individuals have their details on a biometric database. People are worried about this because it is an invasion of privacy and security (Whitley and Hosein 2010). This paper seeks to prove the extent to which the government is justified in asking people to allow their biometric data to be put on a database.
The major advantage of biometric data is that it is information that a person carries with him every time and there is no possibility of it being changed radically over time. It is not possible to alter this information by counterfeit ways that would limit reliability.
This means that this is the most efficient information to use in solving crime. If well implemented and used, biometric data will be an important resource in solving crime. Advocates of the move have argued that gathering data from a wide range of sources and availing it to multiple agencies in the government will raise the chances of getting crime perpetrators. With the data, it is possible to match suspects of crime against the data in the database (BoozAllen 2009).
Biometric data can help in crime prevention and detection. It is possible to use this data to establish identity and thus recommend action. Data from facial-recognition and video surveillance technology can be used to detect crime and identify perpetrators. It is possible with the use of biometric technology to change different pieces of data into significant analytics and reliable intelligence.
Unprocessed biometric data is linked to related data to get useful and actionable information for use in investigations. Biometric data can also prevent crime where they are detectors are installed for that purpose. Surveillance cameras linked to an agency can detect and prevent a crime from taking place (BoozAllen 2009).
Biometric-enabled intelligence is intelligence data that is linked to or generated from biometric information that relates to a particular individual or unidentified identity to a location, action, device, component or weapon. Biometric-enabled intelligence is therefore an efficient move in the fight against terrorism. By identifying individuals, actions, devices and weapons, it is possible for agencies to fight against terrorism.
The biometric database which will contain criminal records will be able to link to terrorist database of suspects. This will enable intelligence agencies to recognise suspects and in case of an attack, it will be possible to catch the perpetrator. Entering with weapons or any other dangerous item in a restricted area will be prevented through the use of this technology (BoozAllen 2009).
There is an argument by some supporters that some countries have already successfully implemented biometric data and that it is working. Some countries like the United States have become strong supporters of the move since the terrorist attack of September 11. Other countries that have implemented or considering the move include Germany, Iraq, India, Brazil, Italy, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Netherlands.
The market of biometrics is getting larger since countries have realised the benefits of biometric database for their security. Since the move is positive and promises positive impact in national security and intelligence, it is good that the government goes on with its decision to implement the database (Ratha, Connell and Bolle 2001).
There is also an argument that the people with nothing to hide should not be afraid of the move. This argument counters the claim that privacy is threatened and the possibility of big brother and Orwellian Society. Only criminals have something to hide from the intelligence agencies, and this is what the government wants to reveal in an effort to fight crime and terrorism.
People who are going on with their business without creating a threat to the country have nothing to be concerned about. After all, the price the public has to pay is little compared to the benefit of biometric data in national security. This argument supports the fact that the public should be supportive of the move to provide national security.
There have been arguments concerning the large-scale storage of personal information in a database. Opponents of the move have argued that personal privacy might be violated. There is also an issue with the security of the public due to the storage and use of biometric data. For instance, the data might end up being used for purposes that the owner has not agreed on.
There is also the possibility of the information being stolen and used in a way that might endanger the owner’s security and even life. Given the fact that biometrics is just a part of the entire security system, securing the biometric system alone is not enough while the rest of the system is open to circumvention.
As a result, the idea of biometric identifier being a complete proof of identity should be done away with. Another issue is that biometric identification systems are prone to inaccuracies and evasion and are thus imperfect. This means that security cannot be guaranteed with the storage and use of biometric data even with the availability of data protection procedures (Leppard 2008).
Despite the fact that the legal use of biometric techniques is not invasion, the ways that the information is generated, stored, compared and linked to other data about a person may be a source of concern. Regardless of the fact that the current legal structure for Data Protection, extensive diffusion of biometric data into the commercial arena may be a challenge to the existing legal structure in a way that will negatively impact on public acceptability. For instance, of the practice of information sharing among private sector institutions increase, the public may thus find the current data protection inefficiency in protecting private information.
There is an ethical argument on the storage and utilisation of oneself, the biometric characteristic that is digitised for storage, as personal identity as getting rid of the space that has been conventionally placed between the self and the personal identity. Presently, it is possible for an individual to change his identity in case of the need to do so, like in witness protection program. This will be difficult or even impossible where the identity is connected with the self (Ratha, Connell and Bolle 2001).
The storage of biometric data is raising the issue of how the public will be able to avoid unwarranted scrutiny. There is the danger of the country “committing slow social suicide.” This is because biometric technology will use big brother systems for surveillance and recording tools that are likely to spread to all the spheres of life. The country is about to wake up to a surveillance society where the privacy of the public is highly intruded upon.
This means that it will be impossible for people to work and operate without someone watching their every move. The level of surveillance will continue to grow leading to some people in the society being discriminated against and left out in the society. The identification process is invasive and insidious. People enjoy privacy and comfort as they go on with their normal businesses. This is likely to be a thing of the past with this technology (Leppard 2008).
Another argument in opposition to this technology that is related to the big brother society issue is the fear of introduction of an Orwellian Society. This is a society where there is all-encompassing state surveillance and never-ending public mind-control.
Generation, storage and use of biometric data will fulfil the prophecy of George Orwell in his dystopian novel (Leppard 2008). There is likelihood of invasion of individual privacy through surveillance, state control of people’s every day life, and in general a dystopian future. The main sense of Orwellian Society is the big bother society already discussed. There is likelihood of ‘thought policing’ where there is constant monitoring of the public to detect disloyalty through “unacceptable thoughts” (Bowker 2003).