Thursday, 1 April 2010

From thumbprints to bumprints & brain scans

Beyond traditional fingerprints or retina scans, people may be identified by 3D scans of their noses or the unique mix of bacteria living on their skin. Unfortunately, bacteria-slaying plasmas could be co-opted by criminals to evade the latter.

So a revolutionary new technique measures another unique individual biodata characteristic - dubbed the "bumprint" - expanding the science of biometrics still further, in what many would say are even more invasive ways (and indeed as presaged by BoingBoing).

Prof. G. Maximus and his team at the UK Department for End, Rear & Rump Impressions & Emissions Research & Exploration have succeeded in making bumprinting commercially feasible after years of hard work (although their Forensic Air-Rear Transmission Section are still investigating the emissions angle, given continuing improvements in electronic noses - if skin bacteria are unique, why not individual odours?).

The UK government have announced that they intend to make bumprinting compulsory shortly, to complement airport body scanners and other security arrangements. They argue that as fingerprints are not 100% accurate, adopting new techniques is essential to ensure that the UK does not fall behind in its fight against crime and terrorism. While the Summary Care Records database contains errors, they are confident that the new Posterior Database will not suffer from data quality issues and that access to it can be very tightly controlled.

The Association for Rectal Security & Encryption, a new grassroots organisation, has sprung up to oppose these measures. They have condemned the move as "More than a bit of a cheek" and believe that insufficient attention has been paid to putting into place proper safeguards for securing and deleting the resulting biometric data, citing the recent misuse of an airport body scanner and the "take a look at this" factor (however, as RacingSnake has pointed out, all relevant issues of course need to be considered for a proper, credible analysis; and careful design for privacy is always vital).

The risks are clearly similar to those with body scanners, which organisations such as the Equality & Human Rights Commission and US consumer advocates have argued cogently against. Body scanners are still subject to data protection rules although, as Out-Law have mentioned, Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian believes full body scanners may not fall foul of data protection laws. But the UK Information Commissioner's Office have yet to comment on the bumprinting issue, even though it is likely to prove controversial.

Given that biometric passports can be faked, no doubt it won't be long before bumprints are cloned too. In anticipation, DERRIERE Minister Mr Heinie Keister says that the UK will be setting up a new agency, the Bureau of Underside Terrorism & Thoughtcrime (aka the Bureau Opposing Terrrorism, Thoughtcrime & Orifice Manipulation), which will be dedicated to improving technological protection measures and fighting forgery in this field. In a showing of commitment to transparency and accountability, the activities of BUTT will be regulated by a new independent watchdog, the Board of Underside Neutrality Supervision.

As brain scans have shown much promise for neuromarketing, the UK government are also considering the introduction of brainwave scans in order to detect people who respond negatively to words such as "Mandelson", in connection with a proposed amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, which they hope to push through in the forthcoming wash-up, which would create a new offence of opposing the Bill and wanting balanced laws which reflect the realities of 21st century technology and modern society. Shockingly, opponents have even included Internet giants, legal academics and security experts.

However, given that brain scans can also expose those who break promises or show a tendency to break promises in future, it is envisaged that politicians and aspiring MPs will be completely exempted from the scans, in order to avoid putting off citizens from running for public office.

There are clearly going to be many exciting developments to come in the new field of neurolaw as well as traditional privacy law.

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