The Alameda County, Ca., Sheriff’s Office will become the first public agency in the San Francisco Bay Area to force some convicts to submit to iris scanning, a strategy that may jump-start debate about how police should use a powerful and emerging technology, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Each human iris has a unique texture; its contours can be mapped in a searchable database. Proponents of the technology say it won’t replace fingerprinting, but that it offers a speedier and more accurate way to identify people – whether suspects at crime scenes or inmates being freed.
Authorities will begin scanning the irises of the county’s 2,500 sex offenders within a few weeks when they register during a move or when they check in annually as required. A sheriff’s department spokesman said the county is expanding its tracking of sex offenders in response to a recent federal law calling for building a national sex offender registry. The department wants to test the technology and prepare for a future in which many police agencies scan irises and officers carry handheld scanners. An officer might be able to identify quickly a sex offender or parolee who gives a fake name. An officer who received a complaint about a person annoying a child might scan that person’s eyes. Within seconds, the officer would know if the person was a sex offender. “We’re at the infancy of this whole thing,” the spokesman said.