Big Brother is officially here.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. have found a way to scan the eyes of people from a distance of 40 ft. away, in order to identify them to security and law enforcement agencies. It’s a freaky thought, but we haven’t even gotten to the juicy part yet: The technology was actually tested to identify drivers via the reflection of their eye seen in a vehicle’s side mirror, which means it can tell who you are even if it can’t get a direct shot.
Obviously, there are two sides to this kind of technology. On the plus side, researchers say its widespread use could mark the end of annoying usernames and passwords, as computers will already know who you are. Authorities will also have a much easier time identifying suspected criminals, no matter how much they try and change their physical appearances.
The downside? Well, Big Brother. But there are also many questions to consider: Is this just another way to strip away some of society’s privacy rights (a la Google and Facebook)? How would these scans be regulated? Who would be allowed to use them or see the data they hold? The list goes on.
After all, we couldn’t help but be reminded of this eerie scene from Minority Report:
Probably not the scenario you’re hoping for, right?
Luckily, there’s good news on that front. Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act states that “Businesses must obtain the individual’s consent when they collect, use or disclose personal information…” which means even if the technology were adopted here, we would be required to give permission before being scanned.
Of course, those rules have the potential to become a lot murkier if the technology fell into the hands of police agencies. Calgary’s police force, however, already uses facial recognition technology. If that scenario can be used as any kind of litmus test to gauge what we can expect in the future, we can tell you that Alberta’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation soon after Calgary’s police adopted it. So there are some safeguards to feel relieved about.