One thing the trips to Toronto and Brazil this week had in common was long lines to get through immigration.
The U.S. State Department is about ready to roll out new passports which will have embedded digital photographs. There will be a scanner at the point of immigration which will take a digital picture of your face and compare it to the one embedded in your passport thereby verifying that you are who you claim to be. Experts are opposed to using the technology because there is a high error rate on the face-scanning — some claim as high as 50%. The alternative they advocate is fingerprinting. If two fingerprints are taken, the accuracy is 99.6% according to the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Iris scanning also has a very high accuracy rate. The new passport standard does include a standard for embedding both fingerprint and iris biometrics.
Why doesn’t our government want to use the better methods? The U.N. affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization decided that the digital faceprint is least likely to cause privacy fears and is easier to implement for some countries. The face scanning approach will be far superior to what we have today but I for one would put privacy "fears" second to having superior security. Whatever privacy intrusions are possible with the iris scan or fingerprint are also possible with the digital face scan.