Think of a password that is impossible for you to forget but equally impossible for anybody else to guess. Too farfetched? Not at all. As it turns out, you were born with one: your body.
From the make-up of our fingerprints to the colour patterns of our eyes, our dental records, and even the structure of our veins, our biological identities are unique to us – and technology that can tell who we are by scanning a thumb or iris is no longer the preserve of science fiction.
Biometric technology is not new, but it is now becoming an increasingly common part of our lives. Your mobile phone can now be unlocked by reading your fingerprints, banks are using voice-recognition technology as a precaution and our passports contain identification chips that remove the hassle of queuing at airports.
But this is only the beginning. Imagine walking into a pub and putting your finger into a vein scanner. Instantly, the terminal knows what your favourite drink is, orders it and then takes payment from your credit card.
Such gadgetry may sound years away but “FingoPay” technology is already being trialled by Sthaler, a British company. Vein authentication – just one example – is more secure than any PIN: the chances of two people having the same vein structure is 3.4 billion-to-one.
Reliable biometric technology has the potential to go a considerable way towards eradicating fraud. It may be easy to obtain someone’s password or driving licence but incredibly difficult to steal their iris or fingerprint (although, it should be said, not impossible).
All new technologies, though, have upsides and downsides. As we live more and more of our lives online, the risks of hackers infiltrating our lives grows. Just last year billions of accounts were compromised and the need for greater security becomes more imperative. We need to be careful what we wish for.
Yes, the benefits of technology are dazzling, but the potential drawbacks – if unmet – are alarming. A world in which CCTV cameras can instantly recognise people using facial recognition technology or by analysing their walking gait may be as disturbing as it is reassuring. It’s a brave new world. And we must be too.
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