Thursday, July 24, 2008

Biometrics: Fingerprints versus palm prints

While driving back from Charleston, SC (USA) today - a lovely seaport city, by the way - I was catching up on my podcasts and happened to listen to a Wall Street Journal (US, center-right, business news) segment on new palm print readers.  The part that caught my attention was the claim by one interviewee that - and I'm paraphrasing here - "people" were concerned about using fingerprint biometric identification technologies because they were worried about later being falsely accused of a crime due to a mistaken match to a print left at a crime scene.  The interviewee went on to say that as police did not collect palm prints during crime scene investigations, palm print biometrics systems were getting a leg up in the market place.

This made me wonder exactly who are these "people" he referred to?  I'm rather doubtful that it is the general public that has these concerns.  I find it much easier to believe that elements of criminal "society" or privacy advocates would be tuned-in to these issues, but not the average man on the street.  I might be being too critical of this particular piece, but I thought that the reporter should have challenged, or at least followed up on, that statement.

In a larger context, this may unfortunately be a textbook example of how public policy is determined at the chaotic intersection where the general public, subject matter experts, issue advocates, the marketplace, and technology all collide.  I certainly hope not!

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