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Schools Implementing Iris Scanners to Identify Students

July 23, 2013

When an app notification asks “Would Like to Use Your Current Location”, do you ever feel compelled to click “Do Not Allow” solely because giving out that kind of information seems frightening? We are in a day and age when access to unlimited knowledge is as simple as reaching in your pocket and swiping your finger, but with the technology comes a price– your privacy. There has been ongoing controversy surrounding Apple on whether or not they track users of the iPhone. It has become a boundless fight since we are exposed to the effects of cellphone tracking on a daily basis. However, it is not just companies that people should be blaming. Privacy violation has been a perpetual issue, and there are no signs of stopping. Several schools, colleges and universities are implementing eye or iris scanning to replace student identification cards as an additional security measure on their campuses.

Several universities, such as Winthrop University, are testing out the scanners for incoming freshmen.  It’s not just limited to colleges– in South Dakota scanners are being used on school buses for children. As students enter and exit the bus, the students’ eyes are scanned to gain clearance. If the student is on the wrong bus, the scanner will beep to let him or her know. Furthermore, these iris scanners connect to a mobile app that sends the parent(s) a text or email with a photograph of the student, the time and date and a Google map of where the student entered and exited. Similar scanners are already being used in some countries’ airports and high-security offices. They operate by recording a video of a person’s eye then using an algorithm to determine the best image of each eyeball. Certain models can scan up to fifty sets of eyes in one second, which means that large groups of people can walk through one without stopping. Imagine going through customs at an airport where all of your documentation is already pulled up by the time you reach the customs agent, or never having to worry what your username or password is for an account ever again. Makers of these scanners also claim that there are no drawbacks to the use of their products, either.  Makers of the scanners say there are not any drawbacks because the data collected is encrypted, showing up only as 1’s and 0’s on a screen. These companies do not store the data. Instead, the organizations using them maintain it.

Iris scanning is part of an increasing security method called biometrics, which identifies people by their characteristics. The benefits of iris scanning and other biometric technology are many- that much is undeniable. Can you think of any major drawbacks that could arise as the technology becomes more common? While personal information is stolen on a daily basis by identity thieves, what do you think will happen if biometric technology becomes more prevalent? Could it be more manipulated and cause further harm? Is it really an invasion of privacy or do the security benefits outweigh any potential weaknesses?

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 23, 2013 1:52 pm

    Not as bad as implanted RFID chips. Biometrics is not invasive. A passive retinal door scanner (if possible with current technology) would allow for attendance gathering and eliminate substitute test takers in large lectures. Now, the scary part. A public university is an agent of the state, and therefor should not be given this kind of ability to track the movements of citizens…

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