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Biometrics... It's Only Your LifeThere are many things going on in the world today. So many in fact that we are hard-pressed to point out all, many, some… maybe even one or two of them. That's alright. That's why you are here, dear reader. Today we are going to take a critical look at biometrics and in particular, biometric documentation and surveilance.

A TECHNICAL EXPLANATION

What is it?

Biometrics simply means that something biological is being measured or more precisely, something biological from you. What exactly is being measured, falls into a long list of stuff. Some of the most common elements are:

  • Fingerprint
  • Iris
  • Face
  • Voice
  • Signature
  • Hand geometry

But there is more. There is research in progress dealing with:

  • Gait (way of walking)
  • Retina
  • Vascular patterns
  • Ear structure
  • Odor
  • Palm prints
  • DNA

How is it done?

A person wishing his/her biometric measurements taken typically approaches a sensor which will read these parameters and save them into a database. This information is then processed into either a template or a model (a summary of biometric measurements) and then placed in a memory chip embedded in a document or stored into yet another database for general use.

The technical process

How are biometrics being used? Every biometric sensor "recognizes" a person, this is, it re-measures its biometrics and converts them into a template or a model.

Once this is done, the verification of the identity of a person is performed by comparing the new template or model against the template or model taken at some other time and residing in the database. Verification is the process of verifying if a person is indeed who the document says it is.

For tougher cases, we have identification. This is the process where a new measurement is taken but no document is available. This measurement is then compared against the entire database or databases to try to figure out who this person is.

The technical advantage

Strictly from a security point of view and since biometrics are the measurements of your own physical qualities, it is almost impossible to change them. Sure, you could mask some of them sometimes and for some time, for example, you could get false (plastic) fingerprints or contact lenses and so on. But as biometrics progresses, they will comprise an array of measurements eventually making it impossible for any person to fake an identity. Consider a biometric system which collects fingerprints, palm prints and geometry, iris, retina, face, voice, odor and DNA. The probability of being able to change all of them simultaneously in a convincing manner is practically zero.

RFID

Biometric documents with embedded chips typically use what's called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). This is a very clever device that uses no power whatsoever. A typically RFID chip is a memory chip attached to a radio transmitter and an antenna. In order to read the memory, a radio transmitter is pointed towards the RFID chip. Its antenna receives this signal and converts it into electricity which powers its own transmitter which reads the memory and transmits it back to a receiver. This is why RFID chips are known to be contact-less, but they only work at very short distances (about one meter or so).

PRIVACY CONCERNS

Biometrics have been studied extensively by private and governmental organizations and they always came back with the same answer: biometrics are a bad idea because they increase enormously the possibility of identity theft. Yet, biometric documents were and are being deployed internationally at an increased rate. Furthermore, biometric passport standards were developed in order to make sure that all biometric measurements could be read by any country, regardless of the passport's origin.

GOVERNMENT USE

Purpose

As soon as RFID chips became available, governments immediately jumped to them. Latter on when biometric algorithms were developed, they married both and a new era was born.

From a government perspective this is exactly what they were waiting for; a fool-proof way to identify any person anywhere in the world at any time.

Real purpose

The ultimate goal of all governments is control. Computers are becoming faster and cleverer all the time. Cameras are growing smaller and data transmission is becoming faster. This makes it possible for governments to install cameras everywhere (such as in UK), transmit this data in real time to a processing center where every person in view can be tracked instantaneously. The goal is to know where you are at all times. But don't you worry, we are doing this for your own safety against…errr…quick, gimme a threat… terrorism… yeah… that's the ticket… terrorism.

A not-so-new idea

Many people argue that biometrics is not a new idea. That they have been in use for at least 200 years and nothing happened. This is essentially true. In paranoid countries everybody has been fingerprinted since the 1920's and yet very little threat has come from it. However, there is one element that is now gone: the inherent incompetence of governments. In the past fingerprinting people and identifying their prints in physical locations was a time consuming process. It was simply ridiculously non-viable to track people through fingerprints. The inherent governmental incompetence (and technical incapability) protected us against so-called misuse. This is no longer true.

It is a matter of use

Many people make the distinction between use and mis-use, when it comes to personal information. According to this theory, what the government does lawfully is use and what the government does un-lawfully is mis-use. The gist of it is that laws will protect us against governmental mis-use. The problem is that governments pass the laws that politicians want to pass with total disregard as to what people want. Of course, many laws do not take the form of laws, they could be regulations, or decrees or findings or executive orders and so forth. It really does not matter what the law is called; what matters is what it does. And what it does is to convert mis-use into use. Let us be clear. There is no such distinction as use versus mis-use when it comes to data. Governments mis-use all the data all the time. Period.

A slippery slope

You fully understand that new biometric documents are coming, but you don't really care too much. So what if a passport has a chip in it? Who uses a passport everyday anyways? That's OK. We are protected by laws and low use. Wrong! Dead wrong!

The issue is not which documents have biometric RFID chips in them, the issue is the trend. Politicians are not stupid. If they would have tried to implement biometrics in a single swoop, the outcry would have been so loud that it would have threaten their very livelihood: votes. So they decided for Plan B. This plan calls for the slow introduction in biometrics in less controversial documents and for less controversial purposes. For example, passports and immigrants.

Why should we care about the government measuring immigrants? They are not "us" right? Wrong! They are using them to introduce the idea of biometrics into our mind and condition us to their use. It's a psychological thing. You are not afraid of stuff that you recognize. But then, Plan B calls for the subtle extension of biometric use. Sure, passports and immigrants first. Drivers Licenses second… and criminals (who cares about criminals, right?); hospital patients, credit cards, and finally the holy grail: the unique document ID. Many countries around the world already operate on the basis of unique ID documents. As a matter of fact, such documents are so common that the countries not using them are in a minority.

Eventually, everything will have a biometric RFID chip embedded in it … and the government will profit from it.

What's next?

The next step is the permanent biometric RFID chip: the implant.

Many such implants are in use today. We routinely implant our pets and even some humans have accepted to be Ginny pigs in these experiments.

— Seeeeeee? Nothing bad is happening. Come little friend… trust the friendly hands of the nearest implant center … you are doing it for your own good… it's so easy… it's so painless… it's so convenient.

Consider what is in store when we reach these levels. All kinds of integrated sensors can be spread out throughout the entire world. Cameras, microphones and RFID interrogators. The government will be able to know who we are, where we are and what are we doing all of the time. We already have the technology to do this, it is just a matter of miniaturize it even more and lower its cost of deployment and use. But the free market is already taking care of this as we speak. As things go in the world today, this future is inevitable. Biometric RFID chips are already mandatory in passports and in many ID documents throughout the world. There is no opt-out clause.

Did you choose this?

Of course not!

Did anybody ask you about this?

Of course not!

THE THREAT

By far the largest threat to human freedom is governmental control. So far they were able to enforce this control at high levels only, simply because it was too expensive to do otherwise. For example in the USSR they used their "internal passports" to control people, but the cost of doing so was a massive KGB organization. This is no longer necessary. The advent of the biometric RFID chip and its pervasiveness makes it possible and affordable to have granular (i.e. personal) control of all our lives.

Do you think this is a joke? That this can't or won't happen? Take a look at what's happening in Argentina today. Every single financial electronic transaction, regardless of its size, ends up in some government computer. Every one of them. If it is electronic, the government controls it. And this is Argentina today, a banana republic and an economic basket case. No matter. When it comes to control, budgets will be found. Just imagine what will happen when a modestly coherent government gets into the game!

This is really scary: a government with highly effective and efficient mass and personal control tools. And you thought that 1984 was simply a scary novel; it does not even approach the level of persecution in our future!

Don’t kid yourself. If you think that his is 40 or 50 years into the future, you are sorely mistaken. This is the next 10 to 20 years horizon at the latest.

The threat is not the mob or to get your identity stolen, the real threat is that none of these events happen but that governments succeed. Biometrics coupled with RFID chips is indeed the final frontier; the final frontier of tyranny. Just remember that walking into a tyranny is easy, getting out is the problem.

DO WE NEED THIS?

The only question that matters is this: do we need this technology? The answer is clearly no. All "official" documentation serves to fulfill "official" purposes, which we don't care about. As governments produce nothing, there is no reason whatsoever to "serve" their purposes. Why do you need a Driver's License? Or a Marriage Certificate? Or a Passport? What is the ultimate, personal purpose of those documents? How do these documents produce something for you? What kind of value do these documents have? The answer is clearly nothing. They serve no personal purpose and have no value whatsoever… except when it comes to interacting with governments. Any why should our value be less valuable than government value? As we have pointed out incessantly, governments have privileges but we have rights. We trump theirs, not the other way around. The truth is that any and all government documents ever created serve no purpose other than serving the government. Biometrics and RFID are no exception.

CONCLUSION

What are you going to do when the government, your government, decrees that everybody must carry their personal ID documents with them at all times? And what are you going to do when implantation of biometric RFID chips becomes mandatory? By then it is going to be too late. Now is the time to oppose tyranny.

Although, realistically speaking, you, we and everybody else is powerless. We cannot stop what's coming in the same manner that we cannot turn off the rain or power down the sun. The only thing we can to is to educate people and collaborate with the debacle. The sooner it happens, the sooner people will evolve politically and we will regain our freedom.

Strangely enough, the road to free our will goes through debacle and dictatorship. Things are going to get much, much darker become they get better. Get ready.

Or not. Your choice.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 

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