Biometric Devices Planned for Border Security

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Iris scanners, facial-recognition gadgets, fingerprint readers and other biometric gizmos may play important roles in guarding America’s borders, the San Francisco Chonicle says. But some biometric technology used to identify individuals based on their biological traits has foundered because of its cost and the public’s short attention span about terrorist issues.

At least one gadget has proved too intrusive for the public at large: the once-ballyhooed “retinal scanner.” The devices fire infrared or laser beams into people’s eyes to identify them by the unique patterns of blood vessels that snake across the retinas. But some people were squeamish about the light beams entering their eyes, said a leader of the biometrics industry, former Princeton scientist Joseph Atick.

Industry officials are more enthusiastic about the iris scanner, which scans the eye’s iris. The bumps and ripples on each person’s iris are unique, like fingerprints. It’s likely to receive greater acceptance because one doesn’t have to stand so close to the scanner as one did with the retinal scanner. Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said yesterday that in the near future, security experts will concentrate on using fingerprints and photos to identify suspicious persons. “Later, as the technology is perfected, additional forms such as facial recognition or iris scans may be used as well,” he added.

There’s a catch: At least some types of iris scanners are easier to fool than retinal scanners. While the retina is buried deep within the eye, experiments have shown that a phony contact lens-style “iris” might fool some cheaper types of iris scanners


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