March 5th, 2017 | Tin Foil Hat Time | No Comments Yet
Have you ever watched the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report? The future society portrayed in that film was one where bio-metric tracking was used to both track and market to the populous. The movie did not go as far as we are moving in our society as retinal identification seemed to be the major way of tracking people. Many will point to this movie as the coming dangers of bio-metric tracking and it is worthy of considering the warnings this fictional production can bring to the table.
Webster defines bio-metrics as ‘the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioral characteristics (as fingerprint or voice patterns) especially as a means of verifying personal identity’. Thus bio-metrics is not limited to fingerprints or retinal scans, but also voice patterns, ear patterns, facial points, DNA, and probably more. Each of these single points is essentially a bar code that can uniquely identify any person. None of these data points can be altered on our person.
Taken with the amount of data collection being conducted on people by personal and public devices, it is slowly becoming feasible to track every person at all times. Though that is scary enough, the recent ability of data storage means that every data point possible on every person can be stored and tagged and we start to see a picture of who is where. Even worse, the data collection will be used like the data in Minority Report with the companies knowing (at least their AI knowing) who is approaching what, and a specifically targeted advertisement can be directed to that specific person. If you do not believe that would happen, Yahoo (whom Verizon is still in the process of purchasing) have a patent for that very type of system. I reported on it on a previous episode.
What we can do about the mass collection of collecting and storing bio-metric data? The answer is not much. The best long-term strategy is convincing lawmakers to halt storage of this data because hackers can be access databases too easily. The best short-term strategy is to be cautious with how we share data.
With technology comes some great innovation, but some innovation is not good for us. Among the list of things that I recommend you stop using, these are some of the top:
Windows 10 has the Windows Hello function. Hello can log a user into the computer using three different points of biometric data: facial recognition, iris scan, or fingerprint. I would not recommend using Windows Hello at all, but just stick with a good password. Though for the moment it appears all of the data stays on the computer, but only login statistics are sent to Microsoft. I am not inclined to trust Microsoft for two primary reasons. First, even with all of the privacy settings disabled, Windows 10 still connects to several online servers and transmits data. It is not clear what this data is, so I am not going to rule out collecting bio-metric data. Secondly, Microsoft could change its security policy at any time and begin to collect the secure data from users devices onto their company servers.
Iris scans are not the most common technology currently, but as cameras become better we will start to see more devices offering retina and iris scanners to unlock devices and decrypt data. Resist the urge to let these devices into your life, go back to passwords and keep them safe and secure.
Finger prints are probably the most common form of data collection so far. We have finger print scanners on our computers and phones, and it is beginning to be tempting to unlock your phone with a fingerprint as you pull the device out of your pocket. It is still unclear how this data is being used, and whether hackers can access this data for unlocking your device or other devices you may also use with your bio-metric information. The technology is still relatively new, so that means security may not be as strong as it could be as is the case for automobile computer security. It is just an unknown (like the rest of the items on this list).
Cortana, Siri, OK Google, Alexa…all of these devices are waiting for keywords, wakeup words. Alexa and probably the others do not send any data to the servers until the wake word is spoken, but once it is, anything the device hears is logged, analyzed, and stored. The biggest problems here are that the voice is analyzed for key words, patterns, speech type, etc. With that data being collected and stored across multiple devices and platforms, advertisers and governments can make out who we are to a concerning degree.
DNA was probably the first major bio-metric data collected after fingerprints. Our genetic code contains a lot of information and it should not be given to any company for any reason that is not compelled. Many kits now exist to send in DNA to find your family tree, but these are often more about collecting a whole lot more data and the methods of storage and return have not been shown to be reliable. Best practice is to not share DNA unless you are compelled by law.
As we move into the brave new world of collecting bio-metric data, we should move with great caution. Do not callously give your bio-metric data to any company that wants it. Also be caution of using such data to login to devices such as Windows 10, Mac or your phones. Stop and think if giving up such private and unchangeable data is worth the small convenience of logging into your computer a few seconds faster. I, for one, do not trust bio-metric data collection is in our best interest.