Worldcoin has been trending for a few weeks now, this is because the cryptocurrency project is paying people in order to obtain iris biometric data to create a global identification system. Worldcoin claims that this system will be more secure and efficient than traditional identification systems and that it will help to provide financial inclusion to people in developing countries.
Iris recognition is an automated method of biometric identification, taking unique patterns within a ring-shaped region surrounding the pupil of each eye. It is an extremely reliable and accurate identification method with very low false match rates. However, this kind of data has a lot of use cases.
The history of iris recognition is relatively young. It all began in 1936 when ophthalmologist Frank Burch identified differences between human irises and proposed the patterns as a method to recognize individuals. However, it was not until 1987 when doctors, Leonard Flam and Aran Safir, were awarded a patent for the iris identification concept, based on the idea that no two irises are the same. The upswing of iris recognition as an identification method came just after the millennium when patents expired and the technology was ready for broad commercialization.
Iris recognition data can be used for a variety of purposes, primarily revolving around identity verification and security. Here are some key applications of iris recognition data:
- Biometric Authentication: Iris recognition is often used as a highly secure method of biometric authentication. It provides a unique and stable identifier for individuals, making it difficult to forge or replicate. This form of authentication can be used to unlock devices, access secure facilities, or log into accounts.
- Access Control: Iris recognition is employed to control access to restricted areas such as government facilities, corporate offices, and data centers. It enhances security by ensuring that only authorized personnel can enter these spaces.
- Border Control and Immigration: Iris recognition can expedite immigration processes at borders and airports. Matching travelers’ iris scans with their passport information helps authorities verify the authenticity of individuals and prevent identity fraud.
- Financial Transactions: Iris recognition can be integrated into financial systems to secure transactions and prevent fraudulent activities. This can include accessing bank accounts, making payments, and authorizing high-value transactions.
- Healthcare: Iris recognition can help healthcare institutions manage patient records securely. It ensures that only authorized medical personnel can access sensitive patient information, protecting patient privacy.
- Time and Attendance Tracking: Businesses can use iris recognition for employee attendance tracking. This eliminates the possibility of “buddy punching” (where one employee clocks in for another) and ensures accurate records.
- Smartphone and Device Unlocking: Iris recognition technology can be incorporated into smartphones and other devices to provide a secure and convenient unlocking mechanism. This was implemented in devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Samsung S8, and S9 series. It is important to note that Iris Recognition is different to Face recognition which most devices use.
- Law Enforcement: Iris recognition can aid law enforcement agencies in identifying suspects or missing persons by matching iris scans against databases of known individuals.
- National Identification Systems: Some countries have explored using iris recognition as part of their national identification systems. This helps create a secure and tamper-proof identity for citizens.
- Patient Identification in Healthcare: Iris recognition can help hospitals and healthcare facilities accurately match patients with their medical records, reducing the risk of medical errors and improving patient care.
- Emergency Services: In emergency situations, like natural disasters or accidents, iris recognition can be used to quickly identify individuals who might be unconscious or unable to provide identification.
- Elections and Voting: In some cases, iris recognition has been proposed as a secure method of voter identification, reducing the potential for voter fraud.
- AI: Iris recognition data can be used to train AI models to analyze people’s behavior in a variety of applications, such as healthcare, marketing, and security. This data can be used to train models to track changes in people’s eye movements, pupil dilation, and other indicators. The data can be used to train AI models to detect emotions, such as happiness, sadness, and anger. This data can be used to improve the accuracy of emotion detection in a variety of applications, such as customer service and marketing.
It’s important to note that while these applications offer various benefits, they also raise concerns about privacy, security, and potential misuse of biometric data. Here are some of the potential negatives of iris recognition:
- Privacy Concerns: Collecting and storing biometric data, such as iris scans, raises concerns about individuals’ privacy. Unauthorized access to this data could lead to identity theft, surveillance, and potential misuse.
- Data Breaches: Just like any other digital data, biometric information is vulnerable to data breaches. If iris recognition databases are compromised, it could result in serious privacy breaches and potential misuse of the collected data.
- Accuracy and Reliability: While iris recognition is generally highly accurate, factors like poor image quality, changes in lighting conditions, or eye-related health issues can affect its reliability. False positives and false negatives may occur.
- Inclusivity and Accessibility: Some individuals, such as those with certain eye conditions or disabilities, might face challenges with iris recognition technology. This could lead to exclusion and difficulties in accessing services that rely solely on iris scans.
- Unintended Consequences: The widespread adoption of iris recognition could inadvertently lead to unintended consequences, such as increased societal surveillance, loss of anonymity, and potential profiling based on biometric data.
- Ethical Considerations: The use of biometric data raises ethical questions regarding informed consent, especially when individuals might not fully understand the implications of sharing such personal information.
- Misuse by Authorities: There’s a potential for misuse by authorities, governments, or powerful entities. Biometric data could be used to track or control individuals, especially in regions where civil liberties and human rights are not well-protected.
- The permanence of Biometric Data: Unlike passwords or other forms of identification, biometric data like iris scans cannot be changed if compromised. This means that if someone’s iris data is compromised, they can’t simply change it like they could a password.
- Cost and Infrastructure: Implementing iris recognition systems requires significant financial investment for infrastructure, maintenance, and training. This could be a barrier for smaller organizations or developing countries.
- False Acceptance and Rejection: There’s a balance to be struck between security and user experience. If an iris recognition system is too strict, it might reject legitimate users, causing frustration. If it’s too lenient, it might accept unauthorized individuals.
- Cross-Border Data Sharing: In cases where iris recognition is used for international travel, there may be concerns about how different countries handle and share biometric data, potentially leading to privacy conflicts.
- Normalization of Surveillance: Widespread adoption of iris recognition could contribute to the normalization of surveillance practices, blurring the line between private and public spaces.
While iris recognition technology holds great promise, don’t worry, nobody can switch off your eyesight, however, addressing these potential negatives is crucial for responsible and ethical implementation. Striking a balance between the benefits and risks is essential for a technology that involves such sensitive personal data.