Biometrics a 'creepy' trade-off between privacy, convenience: expert

Biometric identification is advancing faster than the law can keep up with, and people's privacy is at risk because of it, according to a Canadian university professor.

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Tom Keenan, author of the book "Technocreep," says smart technologies are quickly accumulating a vast quantity of data that can leave people vulnerable to advertisers, insurance companies, and even hackers. And with new technologies emerging at a rapid pace, it's becoming increasingly difficult for regulators to keep track of all the ways personal data is being collected.

Fingerprint recognition is already used with many smartphones. Some smart devices, like the Nimi band, can recognize a person's heartbeat. And facial recognition and retinal scan software are the wave of the future, according to Keenan.

Researchers have also cooked up a "password pill" that people can swallow to unlock all their personal devices, and a temporary tattoo that can track a person's biometric data.

"There's no way society can keep up with this," Keenan told CTV Calgary on Monday.

Keenan, a digital design professor at the University of Calgary, says biometric identification is becoming a trade-off between convenience and personal privacy.

"Somebody with enough data processing power – which is dirt cheap right now – can go out there and follow everything that you do," he said.

Keenan suggests an insurance company could use a person's biometric data to determine whether or not to insure them. An advertiser could also use that data to deliver targeted ads to a person, or track their activities at all times.

"If they get that data, what are they going to do with it? Will they use it against you? Will they sell it?" Keenan said.

"Next time you go into the Wal-Mart, maybe it knows as you walk in there that you're pre-diabetic… and suddenly you start being manipulated."

Keenan suggests, without proper laws to govern the collection of biometric data, governments or private companies might soon know more about you than you do yourself.



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