December 4, 2007
If you’re a fugitive from the law — or even if you’re just super paranoid about your privacy — you might want to steer clear of a new biometric payment system which has been implemented at about ten Shell gas stations in the Chicago area. The biometric payment system, developed by San Francisco-based Pay By Touch, works by linking a user’s fingerprint to his or her credit card or checking account. For now, customers must scan their fingertips at a kiosk inside the gas station – however, Shell is reportedly considering the idea of having the scanners installed on the pumps to facilitate even faster payment.
But what if the scan taken could be linked to other databases – even be cross-checked against the NCIS database? We’ve heard about how this technology can be used to create “theft proof” smart cars which can only be used by the driver registered to that vehicle. And now it appears the technology can be used to verify a credit card user’s identity as well. But where is the fingerprint information stored and who has access it? Is it possible that, one day in the future, even people wanted for minor offenses, such as failure to appear in court or failure to pay child support, could be “nabbed” by police at the local gas station or some other store, should they attempt to pay using this new system?
Of course, I’m intentionally being absurd … obviously, Shell is using the technology to see if it will provide a new level of convenience for its customers … it probably has no intention of using it proactively as a crime fighting tool. Furthermore, if you’re on the run, you’ll probably be smart enough not to use such a system.
Still, as adoption of this technology grows — and if one day it becomes ubiquitous — one can’t help but wonder what role it might play in identifying and tracking people as they move about and make purchases. By the same token, one can also speculate whether it might be possible for the bad guys to use this technology against consumers: For example, maybe someone will come up with a way of “faking” people’s fingerprints, as part of an impressive effort to steal their identities.
Shell is reportedly the first gas station company in the U.S. to install biometric payment devices. The company is also reportedly testing hand-held wireless devices that allow full-service customers to pay electronically without getting out of their cars. For more information, check out this article.
‘What if’. That is the question. TODAY they are not linked to any other databases, but it would be trivial to do so, and government would have no problem in compelling gas stations or anywhere else from providing real time access.
Like we and other people have been saying for ages, they will use this to cut off your life, making you a ‘non person’ at the press of a button, so that you cannot eat, travel or, as in this case, buy gasoline. They could even use it to ration gasoline and food in an ’emergency’.
IF you think that they will not try to do this, you are delusional; and we don’t have to take breath to talk about the ‘accidents’ that can happen where your identity is stolen or corrupted. We have had some very good examples of how that works.
This article is cautious, but the writer has the main points nailed; this is something to be VERY cautious about; do you REALLY need to save three minutes at the pump? Are those three minutes worth your irreplaceable fingerprints? You can already pay at the pump by swiping your card without even entering the station proper – there is no advantage in using your fingerprint to facilitate transactions; this is a completely faddish and pointless exercise. Period.