On the campus of the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota fingerprint technology is being tested on students. For many years futurists have envisioned paper money and credit cards being replaced with fingerprint and retina scanners than can identify the individual. For some, this advance represents progress. For others, it represents a new world that makes it easier for governments to track their citizens and ultimately invade their privacy.
Biocryptology, a mix of biometrics (using physical traits for identification) and cryptology (the study of encoding private information), is being studied on the school campus. Two shops are participating in the experiment in which a student can buy an item and the fingerprint machine determines whether the transaction is genuine or not.
Bernard Keeler, mechanical engineering major, bought a Red Bull in the Miner’s Shack campus shop. After imputing his birth date into the machine he placed his finger in it. Seconds after the machine had confirmed his fingerprint and that a living body was behind it, to stop anyone using a severed finger, it thus allowed the sale. A receipt was sent to Keeler by email which he showed off on his smartphone.
Although this isn’t a new technology, the added security protection of measuring that a pulse is beneath the finger sets this method above the rest.
Nexus USA president, Al Maas, who patented the technology said, “I said, if it flies here in the conservative Midwest, it’s going to go anywhere.”
Maas, who grew up near Madison, S.S., persuaded Klaas Zwart, the owner of Hanscan, to test the technology on the Mines campus first.
After Maas and Zwart introduced the idea to students this winter, about 50 stepped forward to take part in the pilot.
Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said fingerprint technology on its own raises security issues, but he called “liveness detection” a step in the right direction.
“Any security measure can be defeated; it’s a question of making it harder,” he said.
The key to keeping biometric identification from becoming Big Brother-like is to make it voluntary and ensure that the information scanned is used exactly as promised, Stanley said.