Privacy SOS

Cops will soon be able to read our iris scans through reflections in our car mirrors

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab Biometrics Center have won a gold Edison Award for their "Unconstrained Biometric Identification" technology, which enables real-time identification through futuristic iris scanning and facial recognition.

In the video embedded above, the lab demonstrates how its technology enables the identification of a motorist by scanning their iris through a reflection in their driver's side mirror from over 10 meters away.

The technology can also identify people from images of just a part of a human face, and from low resolution or shadowy images. One researcher involved with the project brags that the computer is better at recognizing faces than the naked eye.

Industry website Planet Biometrics quotes Jim Garrett, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, extolling the virtues of technologies that enable the government to track and identify anyone, anywhere, at any time. "[The] lab is creating opportunities to save lives by enabling officers to identify potentially dangerous criminals without even approaching the vehicle," Garrett said.

Under current law, police do not have to obtain a warrant or have any suspicion of criminal activity before deploying biometric identification technologies. Legislatures are falling behind when it comes to passing laws to protect privacy in the information age. But the technologists who are building these surveillance tools aren't waiting for the law to catch up. Meanwhile, the FBI is compiling huge quantities of biometric information on millions of Americans in its new Next Generation Identification database, many of whom have never even been convicted of a crime.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.