biometrics, technology

Of course, Biometrics are not evil.

Mike Elgan’s recent article, Are biometric ID tools evil?, is really, really dumb (I almost said evil). It’s either that or bordering on libelous so, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, even though the piece doesn’t extend the same courtesy to those of us working on biometric identity management technologies.

But maybe he didn’t mean it. The title, after all, is a question, right? We’ll read on.

It doesn’t take much longer for the author to remove all doubt, as he rapidly moves from the rhetorical title to the “How often do you beat your wife?” formulation of the question:

How evil is biometric ID?

Followed by…

So we find ourselves in a strange position in which some religious conservatives and some secular liberal privacy advocates both agree that biometric identification is evil.

On the other, you have a large number of people who consider biometrics an unparalleled evil, and they will refuse to participate.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Is biometric technology the answer to our security problems? Or is it just plain evil? [all emphasis mine]

Evil? Really? Not “a bad idea”, “misguided”, or “dangerous” — evil? 

Last I checked evil means “profoundly immoral and malevolent” and because most people gave up imputing moral qualities to inanimate objects sometime around the Bronze Age, the whole piece is either a really bad joke lacking a punchline or a shot at people — the people at every level of biometric development, from academia to enterprise — working to apply a new technology to the human challenges of identity management.

And why the fixation on “evil”?

Maybe “creepy” seemed too Jan Brady (and way played-out) and moral hyperbole is the new new thing.

Maybe it’s a reference to what is perhaps the least ambitious corporate motto of all time: “Don’t be evil.”

One thing, however, is certain: someone really needs a thesaurus.

You keep using that word.

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