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Old 04-12-2005, 08:35 PM
Mawashi Mawashi is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 64
Default Draft for letter to newspaper - comments pls

Last night I was watching the news and this segment comes on about biometrics. More of an infomercial than news, though, since the story was totally one-sided. Anyway, I was rather peeved to say the least, so I jotted down a draft for a letter to one of the newspapers here. The lovely wife is going to translate it into Japanese once I'v e finalised mine.

Here it is, and I'd appreciate any comments.

Yet again we see an advertisement for biometrics thinly disguised as news, this time on the nation’s public broadcaster. NHK’s 10pm bulletin on 4/12 featured a segment shamelessly promoting retinal scans, fingerprinting, face recognition, and infrared palm vein scans for keyless entry to buildings and anti-fraud countermeasures. While the convenience aspect of biometric technology is hard to refute, there is the hidden danger that is routinely ignored – actively or otherwise -- in the mainstream media: that function creep seriously threatens to turn Japan and the wider world into a surveillance society where privacy and personal liberty take a back seat in the name of a rather nebulous security. And to paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who willingly forsake liberty for security deserve neither.

We are rapidly approaching the era when biometrics will be a necessity for conducting daily activities, from dealing with government agencies, to passing through airport customs control, to verifying electronic transactions in this expanding cashless society. Under such conditions our movements, purchases, and activities can be monitored by interested parties, with or without our knowledge or consent. Many say that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Unfortunately, computers are fallible and there have been numerous cases in the United States where innocent people have been placed on watch lists for the crime of having the same name as a “person of interest,” due to data-mining errors and incorrect original information.

With Japan at the forefront of technological progress, it is vital that biometric researchers carefully consider the implications of what they are developing. Is a surveillance society, where nobody trusts anyone else without biometric verification, the kind we want to pass on to future generations?

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