common sense 1-13-05
Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit ironic that a visit to the Statue of Liberty -- a symbol of America's freedoms -- now requires visitors to surrender a piece of freedom?
The founders knew from hard experience that the protection of individual privacy from the prying eye of the authorities was essential for any country striving to be the "land of the free." Personal matters and movements are supposed to be just that -- personal, beyond the reach of either government or corporate snoops.
But a creeping (and increasingly creepy) intrusion industry is pushing aggressively into our everyday lives, bolstered by government laws and money. Computer networks track all kinds of data. But that's not enough -- now they want little personal pieces of us: our fingerprints, facial features, the iris patterns of our eyes.
To go up into the Statue of Liberty, for example, you now must store your backpacks and such in public lockers. Fine. But in place of the uncomplicated, unobtrusive system of old -- put your bag in a locker, drop a coin, take the key, and go -- you now must touch an electronic reader that scans your fingerprint.
This means that your own digit is now the key to getting back your bag -- and the key to what else? Oh, say the operators, trust us -- we don't send your print to the authorities. Really? How do we know that? Various government agencies are now authorized to seize our library records or banking information -- why would they not feel equally free to grab our biometric data?
Indeed, your digit is going commercial. Several corporations are already beginning to ask that we use our fingerprints, rather than credit cards, to make purchases.
It's taking away our privacy, one finger at a time.