The Bunny Bacchus (mr_wombat) wrote,
The Bunny Bacchus
mr_wombat

Since half baked, ill informed rants on biometrics are the theme of the week.

At the best of times I'm pretty left wing, left wing authoritarian according to that political compass thing. This apparantly puts me in the same category of Ghandi which would work fine for me except for my belief that public floggings should be introduced for bad driving or parking.


Consequently I'm almost always going to object to the godawful policies spewing forth from the white house these days. I think the DMCA for example is a hideously transparent piece of work designed to trample all over consumer rights. The Patriot Act is the very definition of sacrificing some liberties for temporary security.

However, the hoo-hah about the new immigration policies in the US have me puzzled and to be honest while I have seen a couple of worthy arguments against it, for the most part objections seem to be based on a knee jerk "It's from the American Government so it must be bad" reaction with little or no basis in fact, the most serious being "It's inconvenient" or "It'll not work quite right".

First off, yes, it is inconvenient - there's no denying that. That said though, it will only be inconvenient to non US citizens (lets ignore the exemptions given to several western nations since they won't really apply for all that long it would seem) and as I've mentioned elsewhere, a nation's immigration policy is their own business. If I want to travel to a country then it becomes my problem that they want my fingerprints, no one is forcing me to go there and it's not an invasive process. I sort of get the impression that there is a feeling that since America is so big and powerful and a desirable place to visit that somehow they have an obligation to let us all in unhindered. Can someone tell me why we are not objecting to Brazil's implementation of a similar system? Sure, the US government is objecting to it and we deride them for it but why is all the attention focused on the US if the "problem" exists in two nations with plenty more to come?

My second point is, yes, it is not a perfect system, nor will it be for quite some time, yes, the machinery can be fooled, yes, again, it is not perfect.
But then neither are passports, passports can be forged, immigration papers can be faked, ID in general can easily be made up in a short time using inexpensive hardware and a bit of know how. Mistakes may well be made and innocent people will be mistaken for terrorists.

And this differs from the current system how exactly? At least with a verifiable database of fingerprints to use the terrorist identification system will be a bit more sophisticated than "I don't like the look of him" or "that guy has a funny name". I think it's important to differentiate between the problems that will exist with this new system and the problems inherent in the system as a whole.
1) The system can be spoofed - the current system can be spoofed
2) Certain ethnicities will be harassed - that's happening now
3) Political dissenters may be barred from entering the US - happens all the time these days.
4) Terrorists will still be able to enter the US - no change from the existing system.

The new biometrics system will not solve any of these problems, The harrassment of certain groups is something that must be dealt with seperately to the system of identification used. The simple question to be asked is "Ignoring the human factor, will a system of identification using biometrics be better than the current identification system using passports?" In my own opinion the human factor will be mitigated somewhat since their judgement will be less of an issue.

The biometrics system is not perfect and it will both need and get improvement over time but simply because a system is not perfect on implementation is no reason not to do it.
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