Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The right way to use biometrics - Bruce Schneier is pleased to finally find someone thinking of an appropriate use for biometric technology - bioemtric IDs for airport employees.

" The strong suit of biometrics is authentication: is this person who he says he is. Issuing ID cards to people who require access to these sensitive areas is smart, and using biometrics to make those IDs harder to hack is smarter. There's no broad surveillance of the population; there are no civil liberties or privacy concerns.

And transportation employees are a weak link in airplane security. We're spending billions on passenger screening programs like CAPPS-II, but none of these measures will do any good if terrorists can just go around the systems. Current TSA policy is that airport workers can access secure areas of airports with no screening whatsoever except for a rudimentary background check. That includes the thousands of people who work for the stores and restaurants in airport terminals as well as the army of workers who clean and maintain aircraft, load baggage, and provide food service. Closing this massive security hole is a good idea.

All of this has to be balanced with cost, however. Issuing one million IDs, and probably tens of thousands of ID readers, isn't going to be cheap. But it would certainly give us more security, dollar for dollar, than yet another passenger security system.

Unfortunately, politicians tend to prefer security systems that affect broad swaths of the population. They like security that's visible; it demonstrates that they're serious about security and is more likely to get them votes. A security system for transportation workers, one that is largely hidden from view, is likely to garner less support than a more public system.

Let's hope U.S. lawmakers do the right thing regardless."

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