IDair, a military contractor, claims that it can image and resolve fingerprints from six meters away. The article goes into a lot of credulous, breathless rhapsody about this, but fails to note that if your fingerprints can be read from 20 feet away, then any crook who wants to be able to impersonate you will find it trivial to do so — if we allow fingerprints to serve as a form of identification, that is. And of course, you can't change your fingerprints, so once they've leaked onto the net, you're hosed for life. So, basically, as soon as this technology is popular, it will be obsolete.
It's the security of the fingerprint database that concerns privacy experts such as Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "There are so many steps where a (digital) fingerprint can leak," Tien said.
Tien said electronic fingerprints can be like Social Security numbers. He calls them "coat hangers" on which a lot of identifying information can be hung. In other words, with a Social Security number, you can find out many other things about someone. Fingerprints could be same way, he said, and "someone else could use it to pretend to be me."
"Yes, it can be abused," Burcham agreed. "Anything can be abused. The point is, are there restrictions in place to not abuse it?" The answer with IDair is yes, he said. "But what it's going to come down to is: Do you want to go through that door? Do you want to buy something with Amazon?"