Privacy SOS

Worcester sheriff brings iris scanning program to public school, hundreds of kids line up

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Police in Massachusetts are luring children to get them to hand over their biometric information in exchange for…I'm not sure what. Officials imply that putting children's biometric identifiers in the "missing persons" database is a good thing to do. For the life of me I really cannot figure out why.

NECN reports:

“The eyes don't lie,” said Lewis Evangelidis, the Worcester City sheriff. “The eyes are the identification.”

It's a part of Evangelidis' child ID iris scan program.

The camera captures an up-close look at the iris, which is the colored part of the eye.

The sheriff says the iris is ten times more identifiable than a fingerprint. It's the one part of the body that will never change.

“Fingerprints wear out, fingerprints can be compromised. Your iris cannot be,” he explained.

Sheriff Evangelidis has been using the program with senior citizens for years. Wednesday was the first time it's been brought to a public school.

Close to 500 Nelson Place School students lined up to get their picture taken. The students are days away from summer vacation. The sheriff says it's a perfect time to get their information in the system.

“This iris scan is a national database, so if you travel in the summer and something was to happen, you'd be part of that database in any local law enforcement no matter where you were,” Evangelidis explained.

Evangelidis also uses iris scans at the Worcester County House of Corrections to identify inmates.  He calls the technology the next generation of identification, but says it shouldn't replace traditional child ID kits that use fingerprints.

Sheriff Evangelidis is right about one thing: handing over your iris scans to police means that "you'd be part of that database in any local law enforcement no matter where you were," which is actually a terrible thing.

I have a hard time imagining how giving police (and presumably, the FBI) access to your iris scan biometric data could help your security. If children are old enough to "line up" for iris scans, aren't they old enough to remember their names? Is this all that it seems, simply a morbid push to collect biometric data on children, in case they are murdered and need to be identified? Or is it something more sinister, too?

Back in 2011, the NYPD started pressuring arrested Occupy activists to submit their iris scans to the database. People who refused were reportedly told that they would be kept in jail longer before seeing a judge. The FBI is off to the races collecting biometrics, as well. States are increasingly passing laws requiring all sorts of public employees to submit biometric data to the federal government, where the FBI stores it alongside criminal data.

Please, for the love of privacy, don't give the government your iris scans, if you can help it. If you are confused about why you should keep your irises to yourself, take a look at the clip above. It's not such a far off reality. While police need to physically interact with you or something you've touched in order to obtain your fingerprints, technology will inevitably enable the government and private companies to track us everywhere we go, by identifying our eyes from a distance. The only way to stop it will be to close our eyes, which obviously makes getting around more difficult.

Next generation identification means a complete absence of anonymity and privacy in public. Do we want to live in that world? Absolutely not.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.