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Protecting your looks from identity thieves

Jeremy Simon

In the near future, protecting your looks could be key to safeguarding your credit.

retina.jpgWhat does your appearance have to do with your credit? Plenty, if predictions come true that we soon could see the widespread use of biometric technology which considers a cardholder’s unique physical characteristics (such as fingerprints, facial structure and speech patterns) as a way to protect sensitive account information. Rather than needing a signature to authorize card payments, for example, companies could demand to scan your retina.

The technology is already being used overseas. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military is cheering the success of biometrics. “After several years of compiling vast biometric databases that now contain identification information on more than 2.5 million Iraqis, the U.S. military is sold on the technology,” Defense News reports, with records of fingerprints and irises used by the military to separate friend from foe and nab suspected terrorists.

The widespread use of the technology creates a huge database of biometric data — and the need to guard it. “In a discussion with bloggers in 2007, Lt. Col. John Velliquette, a biometrics manager in Iraq, acknowledged that a biometric database is ‘very sensitive because essentially what it becomes is a hit list if it gets in the wrong hands,'” Defense News reports. That suggests biometric data could be used to fuel civil bloodshed between opposition groups of Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

In the U.S., security experts would likely be more concerned about the threat from identity thieves out to steal biometric data for fraudulent purposes. Hackers who once focused on stealing a cardholder’s personal information could instead focus on swiping physical characteristic data: Just imagine the sci-fi scenario of cloned eyes becoming the next version of cloned credit cards.

See related: Credit card biometrics: The future of data security

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  • I work in the payment card industry and I have heard this for awhile. Finger prints and eye scan devices – while available, it is a long way off from hitting the main stream
    Just like we came out with chip cards to combat credit card fraud, the industry would have to find a way to protect this technology and increase the difficulty of hackers.

  • This would be a huge protection and I think it’s a great idea, especially after what just happened (http://tiny.cc/17pcS). Security like this would save creditors a lot of money and hassle from picking up the pieces after identity theft has occurred (not to mention all of the plastic involved in printing all of those new cards). This would be a great advancement