The New Frontier of Biometric technology


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¿Iris scanners and facial-recognition cameras are not just in the movies anymore.¿
Futuristic technology found in spy movies such as ¿James Bond¿ and other science-fiction movies are showing up outside of his movies. Devises appearing anywhere from hospitals, schools, docks and airports. Americans can use it such technologies to identify themselves with biometric employee-verification system to ensure that only U.S. citizens and legal immigrants get jobs.


Biometrics:  Is the measurement of the person's unique physical characteristics, using digital fingerprints, hand prints, iris (eye) scans or facial-recognition cameras.


"Biometrics has become fairly ubiquitous now," said James Ziglar, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and the recently retired president and chief executive of Cross Match Technologies, a Florida-based biometrics firm.


Senator Charles Schumer, Demarcate of New York., has said that a verification system based on fingerprints, iris scans or some other form of biometrics must be part of any comprehensive immigration-reform bill. Appoints to the plan say that it is a threat to Americas civil liberty, and poses a threat to everyone¿s privacy. Supporters argue that this is the only reliable, tamperproof way to stop identity theft and fraud. To make such a program to work, all Americans would need to provide their fingerprints or other biometric information to the government to help create a federal database.


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The Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano announced that an expansion of a voluntary program for international travelers to be able to bypass long customs lines at airport by scanning their fingerprints at special kiosks after pre-registering their information.


In Arizona, Phoenix's Sky Harbor and other major international airports, travelers arriving with a non-U.S. passport or visa have their fingerprints scanned and a digital photograph taken by Customs and Border Protection officers as part of the ¿US-VISIT¿ traveler-verification program.  Then those biometric identifiers are compared with fingerprints and photographs take from the traveler¿s home country.


Customs and Border Protection Officers are then able to use this information to verify the person entering the United States is the same person who received the visa. Visas are only issued only after the person has been checked against a watch list of known criminals and suspected terrorists.


Transportation centers are also using biometrics systems. At the nation's seaports, more than 1 million longshoremen, truckers and other workers carry a special Transportation Worker Identification Credential card that contains an embedded microchip with their fingerprints. Gales Rossides the acting administrator of Transportation Security Administration said, "American ports from coast to coast are more secure today because of the significant progress this program has made."


Hospitals and medical centers are attempting to comply with federal privacy laws, have increased requiring doctors and nurses to scan their fingerprints before accessing patient¿s medical records. Medical facilities also are using biometric scans to ensure that only authorized employees enter restricted areas and to match patients with their prescriptions to prevent people from receiving the wrong medication.


Schools are now exploring ways to use the technology. Such as Nashville Tennessee School system, beginning in 07, became the first in the nation to test facial-recognition cameras designed to spot intruders trying to enter school buildings. Students, teachers, staff and parent volunteers register and have their photograph taken. If the camera sees a face it doesn't recognize, it sends an alarm to the security people.


Facial-recognition systems are only 80 percent accurate while iris (eye) scans are nearly 100 percent reliable.  Ranking somewhere between both of them, fingerprints can sometimes change in appearance if the person¿s hands are dirty, greasy or if they do manual labor that wears away their prints.


Biometric systems are also used widely with Businesses or government agencies that require a high level of security. Combing biometrics technology, such as iris scans and fingerprinting.


Once very costly, prices of biometric technology have plummeted in recent years as its use and sophistication has grown. Five years ago, it would have Cost Company around $30,000 to buy equipment to scan a complete set of 10 fingerprints to check an employee's background. The same system today would go for $6,000 or less.


The use of biometric systems is controversial and is seen by critics as a threat to Americans' privacy and freedom. "There is an enormous and ever-increasing amount of data being collected about Americans today," Christopher Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union told senators at a recent immigration hearing.


With the help of biometrics, Africa and Latin America had an authentic election. It also has made it possible for retirees in Egypt to get their pension checks from ATM's rather than having to stand in long lines at government agencies. In Europe, biometric passports are eliminating long waits at border crossings.


"Five or 10 years ago, biometrics was all about law enforcement," Atick said. "Today, it's about making the lives of ordinary citizens better and more convenient. I think people will say, 'If this improves my life, I want it.' "

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