Canadian think-tank sees danger in cross-border biometrics

Walsingham Institute discusses 'reactionary' moves by U.S.

by Nestor Arellano

Reports that face and fingerprint matching scanners are being left unused by U.S. frontier guards prove biometric technology is not appropriate for securing high-traffic environments according to a Canadian security analyst.

American officials acted rashly in deploying biometric technology right after the 9/11 attack, and Canadians are in danger of taking the same route said Alicia Wanless, director of the Walsingham Institute, an independent Toronto-based security think-tank.

"Implementation of biometrics at border crossings was reactionary at best," said Wanless.

Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, the American government went into high gear commissioning security equipment for the country’s entry points.

Biometric-based systems were touted as a sophisticated means of thwarting illegal entry into the U.S.

Biometric authentication uses technology to measure physical characteristics of a person’s face, fingers, hands, eyes or voice as a means of confirming identity.


Most biometric authentication methods, however, are flawed according to Wanless. "These fast-track kiosks and scanners run the risk of creating security breaches themselves."

For instance, she said facial recognition devices are notorious for high error rates since the technology is not yet at a level where it is able to give accurate readings.

Most operators are also not adequately trained to handle situations arising from false positive scans, she added.

The two biggest drawbacks of biometric devices, according to Wanless, are the "fluid nature of identity" and the technology’s "failure to detect intent."

She said there are a multitude of ways available for a determined person to create or obtain false personal information and documents.

The information can be easily slipped into government databases to thwart biometric scanning devices. "The ability to authenticate identity to an irrefutable degree is non-existent."

Despite years of development, technology can not determine a person’s intentions, according to Wanless. "A machine can’t tell you if a person passing through airport security intends to blow up a building two weeks from now."

"We still need properly trained border guards and security personnel who can detect subtle hints in body movements or speech that might betray possible harmful intent."

Instead of spending millions of dollars in biometrics, Wanless advices that governments give more attention to improving border guard training, upgrade databases, as well as enhance information gathering and sharing.



please pass this info on to your gov't reps, friends, family, co-workers

Of course what's never

Of course what's never mentioned is the fact that the alleged hijackers got into the country legally on incomplete visas! Yay for logic!