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Scenes of doors opening with voiceprint-coded locks, high-tech
security systems accessed by a retinal scan and computers positively
identifying their users by a thumbprint are no longer limited to the
silver screen or the super rich.

Developers of a new biometric fingerprint reader hope to make those
scenes a reality in the everyday lives of people around the world. And
the government helped fund the project.

The DSR 300 reader was revealed to the public at the Comdex fall technology show in Las Vegas Nov.
16. Motorola and Identicator
Technology
joined forces in the
development of what is believed to be the smallest and lightest optical
reader, as well as the world’s least expensive.

With a suggested resale price of under $20 in 10,000 unit quantities,
a price nearly $80 cheaper per unit than previously released low-cost
readers, the technology will soon see aggressive pricing pressure making
the readers even more affordable and increasing their demand, according
to Grant Evans, vice president and general manager for Identicator, the
information technology division of Identix Corp.

“As early adopters, [information technology] markets are employing
the ultimate in security — positive user authentication — to spearhead
what is likely to be the next omnipresent technology,” said Roger
Janikowski, business development manager of Digital Imaging at
Motorola. “The DFR 300 uses Motorola’s DigitalDNA technology to
redefine the face of simple functions, such as unlocking your car,
logging on to your computer, making transactions online or operating
your cell phone.”

Suzanne Matick, spokesperson for Identicator, told WorldNetDaily that
the break-though reader has already been shipped to buyers who will
begin marketing the device for notebook computers. Simply put, users
will now be able to insert the reader into a universal port in their
laptops which can be programmed to allow only certain biometrically
verified users to operate the computer. Such a device will protect both
hardware and software, according to Matick, since stolen computers will
be rendered useless.

Commercial availability of such technology has boomed, according to
Matick, increasing the number and variety of players in the biometric
field. Prior to the last few years, the primary buyer of biometric
technology has been government entities — a fact that is unsettling for
critics of the science.

Scott McDonald maintains a website dedicated to informing the
public about the risks associated with biometric technology. He worries
about hackers stealing fingerprints, and therefore user identity.

As McDonald explains, a fingerprint is not like a personal
identification number which, once stolen, can be deactivated and
replaced with a new number. Fingerprints are unique and cannot be
replaced.

Although Identicator’s new security system, which uses encrypted
fingerprint “minutiae” rather than an actual fingerprint, makes it
virtually impossible for hackers to duplicate users’ identities, the
company’s general manager admits that some will try.

“We know of some groups who have called to test our software –
they’re hackers,” said Evans in an exclusive WorldNetDaily interview.

Best known as the father who sued the government because his twin
sons were denied their driver licenses as a result of having no social
security numbers, McDonald foresees government inserting itself into the
world of e-commerce as the third party authenticator of patron
identification.

Third party identity verification for Internet and email transactions
already exists through “pretty good privacy” programs that generate a
certificate of authenticity from a third server in order to guarantee
sender identity. McDonald believes a similar program will be used by
the federal government beginning with all e-commerce transactions, using
biometrics as the primary method of identifying users.

He may be right. It is well known in technology circles that the
government has been developing a pubic key infrastructure — a database
containing identity-verifying biometrics of Americans.

McDonald claims that though “Americans bill themselves as the land of
the free and the home of the brave,” continued government involvement
with biometrics “will destroy that freedom.”

“The fear is the level of absolute control,” he continued.

However, not everyone agrees with McDonald’s prediction.

Evans said the government is “absolutely” creating the database, but
believes the odds of officials using it in conjunction with e-commerce
is “zero,” leaving people to wonder what a government database
containing biometric information on its citizens will be used for.

Julie Malone of the Free Congress Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank,
believes “this is just one of a number of examples of how our privacy is
being eroded.”

She noted that Data Image, an information technology company in New
Hampshire, was funded by the Secret Service “to basically set up a tax
fraud data base that would allow [the government] to determine your
identity when you make a purchase.”

As soon as the project was uncovered by a media outlet, the project
slowed down because “people started paying attention,” according to
Malone who questions government motives for using the technology.

“What exactly do they plan to do with this?” she asks. “Are they
going to track us?”

Evans shrugs off such notions and believes only those who break the
law should fear the government monitoring their actions.

“I don’t believe it,” he said. “Besides, I don’t care if the
government has my fingerprint. They already have it. I’m not
committing crimes, so I’ve got nothing to worry about. What are they
going to do with it?”

“People may think the government will know everything about you. If
those people think government already doesn’t know everything about you,
they’re naïve. A fingerprint doesn’t matter,” he continued.

“[The government] helped us develop our product and funded it. It’s
so benefiting for them,” added Evans, who sees a future where citizens
will be forced to submit themselves to biometric technology as it is
integrated into society.

“The market has accepted this technology. The consumer is going to
get it because infrastructure is going to tell them that it’s better,”
said Evans. “It’s like water — you don’t want to pay for it, but the
infrastructure says that’s the way it is.”

Identicator, whose largest customer has been the U.S. government,
stands to make huge profits as a result of a biometrically-dependent
society. In fact, all of the top ten personal computer manufacturers
including Dell, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Sony and NEC will ship
biometric features by June of 2000, according to Evans.

The information technology executive believes digital cell phones,
which allow wireless email and Internet access, will be the next big
market for the now-affordable technology — cell phone providers lose 18
percent of their billing to fraud each year — followed by online
banking.

As the Internet explosion continues, so does the race to secure
online transactions. But many question the ramifications of “total
security solutions.”

“It comes down to the question of how much privacy you are willing to
give up to fight crime,” said Malone. “Americans need to take a stand
and just simply refuse to cooperate. They need to say this is too
personal for me to just hand over.”


See Geoff Metcalf’s column:
Biometrics comes to Washington


Julie Foster is a staff
reporter for WorldNetDaily.

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