To Enforce Your Cooperation, US Law Enforcement Will Soon Perform Mobile Biometric Iris Scans, Fingerprinting
Mobile biometrics to hit US streets
Despite fuzzy legality, US law enforcement will soon be able to perform mobile iris scans and fingerprinting.
We’re fast approaching a time when law enforcement will no longer need to ask you for your identification – your physical self, and the biometric data therein, are all that will be required to identify you.
A gadget attached to a mobile phone can photograph and plot key points and features on your face (breaking the numbers down into biometric data), scan your iris and take your fingerprints on the spot.
This gizmo doesn’t exist in a futuristic world – it’s already been prototyped and tested. By autumn, the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System (MORIS), which will allow 40 law enforcement agencies across the US to carry out such biometric diagnostics, will be rolled out. So far, the 1,000 units on order – at $3,000 and 12.5 oz per device – will be going to sheriff and police departments.
Proponents of the technology figure the deployment is a plus – having biometric data available almost instantly might prevent an officer from mistakenly identifying someone (via, say, a driver’s license, which could be forged) and unnecessarily hauling them in for processing.
Scans taken on the road are checked against a database of stored scans from those who have in the past been or are currently incarcerated. Essentially, the idea is to see if a suspect has a prior record.
It’s accurate. It’ll keep us safe. It’ll help law enforcement do its job.
But given that two of the three functions of the MORIS could legally be considered to be the sort of “search and seizure” covered by the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment (meaning that a person could, in theory, decline to have their iris scanned or fingerprints taken), law enforcement’s ability to use them as intended seems questionable.
“The collection of personal biometric data has many privacy and civil liberties concerns attached to it, including scalability, reliability, accuracy, and security of the data collected,” said Amie Stepanovich, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a Washington DC-based public interest group focused on privacy and civil liberty issues.
A key concern, said Stepanovich, is that this technology was essentially developed for a military environment and not for domestic use.
“The potential of this technology for use to track and monitor innocent individuals’ personal information cannot be overshadowed. To prevent misuse, warrant requirements must be strictly enforced.”