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European Biometrics Portal · 2005-10-01

Rabenhorst notes that last week the European Biometrics Portal has been launched. Obviously it is designed to encourage networking of involved corporations, educational institutions et cetera. Aim seems to be the building of a european "biometry community". On the first opened forum the ask questions concerning 'Biometry, security and privacy'.

... can biometry be seen as a neutral technology, where only the usage has to be monitored to prevent accidents?

Well, yes, good question. First biometry as well as video surveillance, mass storage of telecommunication data, skrewdrivers, doors and stone age arrow heads is a neutral technology. What is the aim of this technology? Biometry as part of a set of surveillance technologies aims for spotting unwanted behaviour, tracking persons who actually did unwanted deeds and therefore lower the incentive to do unwanted deeds.

Now, what is 'unwanted'? Obviously the meaning of 'unwanted' lies in the eye of the beholder. A cab driver will probably consider 'being robbed by a passenger' 'unwanted', financial authorities may consider tax dodge 'unwanted', a shop owner may consider shop lifting unwanted, a corporation may consider internet use at work 'unwanted'. The last example is one that might interfere with the employees freedom of information already. All of the mentioned could use surveillance technologies to avoid what they consider 'unwanted'.

Up to here, we have examples where the rights of the observed and the reasoning of the observer can be regulated in court. After all, there is a case that bothers me. What may governments consider 'unwanted'. Have a quick look at Belorussia, at Uzbekistan, at Saudi Arabia, at Zimbawe and many more countries around the world. Yes, governments may consider opposition 'unwanted'. And who is the foremost customer in the field of biometric technologies? In fact, governments who are tightly connected to law enforcement authorities are the foremost customers. Nobody could convince me yet, that governments could bind themselfes to not using the mentioned means to spot, track and therefore avoid opposition. Remember, they or their successors may consider opposition unwanted. Governments change. Even if Ghandi was president and Clown Popov was minister for the interiour, I would not like them to have access to too much of those technologies, for one day they won't be head of state anymore, but their means of spotting and tracking remain. What they call an 'accident' at the European Biometrics Portal may result in the disappearence of all political debate in a society. Bad medicine ...

There is much more to say about this. Follow Rabenhorst to keep up to date.

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