In the past I’ve covered a few topics that ask similar questions. But after reading an article in yesterdays local paper. I have to wonder where the balance between privacy and convenience is. I’m sure many would argue that there is no such thing as true privacy. Granted in this day and age it is fairly easy to obtain information on anyone if you know what your doing. Or have a little money to invest to use online services. Video cameras keep popping up in many public places. In most mid size cities or above it is hard to even travel without running into traffic cameras. Even though many of us may express concerns in regards to this. Most of the time we agree the benefits outweigh privacy intrusion. Although the question remains where is the line most people aren’t comfortable with? We know many people are against airports and other forms of public transportation having full body scanners. This is something we have seen in use on many science fiction shows over the years.
Many of us give out private information in return for supposed discounts on products or free merchandise. How many times have you given out your name, home address and phone number for a chance to win this or that? Think about all the times you’ve been shopping and checking out when asked for your phone number or zip code. Several well known retailers refuse to stop using this practice. Now let me ask how many of you gave a fake number, refused to give out your information or actually refused to make your purchase do to this? I’d say probably no one who is reading this has done that. I’ve only personally spoken up on the issue a few times. Which is always met with a dirty look. I guess everyone feels it is ok for everyone in line to have my home phone number even though they don’t know me. Granted no one from any store checkout has ever called my home that I know of. It’s the principal of the matter. Either way it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that people are willing to give up their finger all in the name of convenience.
Don’t get me wrong I’m a true geek – at least in my opinion. I think biometrics is very interesting and very geek cool. A few years ago when I first heard about being able to use your finger instead of a credit card or check to checkout at a store. I thought it was a very interesting idea. From a security standpoint you would think this is a more secure method of checkout. Of course your first thought would be this has to be more convenient as well. It seems the implementation leaves a little to be desired. Not to mention what some will see as privacy concerns in regards to this new technology. Would you be willing to give up your personal information and having one finger fingerprinted just to checkout at the grocery store? It seems that some people are willing to do just that. Although the convenience factor seems a bit more hype in reality. Why? Do to the fact that you must punch in a code then press your finger over the reader. So in theory the checkout process won’t be any faster. You’d have better luck using one of those new swipe and go key chain devices the credit card companies are starting to offer. To me those would seem to work better if your looking to speed up the checkout process. Granted if you forgot your credit card, check or cash the finger method would be useful. Having to not carry these items would of course be a plus. Some might even argue that this might cut down on personal identity theft do to these items not being able to be stolen. Not many people are crazy enough to cut off your finger just to buy some goodies without them having to pay for them.
I was so glad when the paper mentioned that use of this new technology is voluntary and free. I’d hate to walk into my local Jewel Osco ( for the record working at Jewel was my first real job ) and being told to give up a fingerprint and other data. I’m not really sure that statement was needed in the paper. I guess they figure this will keep the privacy advocates happy and mellow. Or alleviate customer concerns that they may be forced to use this new system. Keep in mind though that you may in fact be forced to use this technology. If you want to enter Disney World you had better be ready to get your finger(s) scanned. I’d mentioned this in a previous article on this site. It’s not like I’m against the technology. If I had the money I would prefer to have biometrics setup for home security. I’d rather swipe my finger to enter my house than use a key any day. But with that type of use I think there is less of a privacy concern. Businesses have been using this technology for years. So I’m sure it’s not as foreign to some people. This may make them more inclined to use this as a checkout method. The article I read stated Kroger grocery stores are using this as a time clock for employees. Instead of swiping a card or using an old fashion time card. Kroger employees can just press a finger to clock in.
Many people would argue that security and privacy concerns in regards to this technology are overblown. Although data hackers, identity thieves and the plain curious do need to be a concern in this day and age. The company Jewel and others are using has addressed this. Of course your not going to hear them say things are insecure and that there are privacy issues. They will tell you about how they have gone out of their way to secure things and how no data is being used in an evil way. We have seen companies make this claim in the past. Only to find out there were things they hadn’t taken into account.
So the question becomes. Should we be concerned about signing up for that frequent flier program, the loyalty rewards card or filling out that submission to win a car? Are those people who are worried about these things just being paranoid? Is it ok to freely give up your fingerprint in the name of convenience? Or are there real privacy and security concerns in doing so? Honestly I might be willing to risk it just to try this new technology out. Anyone else starting to feel the checkout counter getting more cluttered? How many card readers and devices can one checkout counter support?
The company that Jewel and others are using is called Pay By Touch.
Jewel-Osco, Piggly Wiggly, Cub Foods, Thriftway, Bigg’s, Kroger and Disney World were the companies listed as using this technology in the article.
Security links, forum threads, news to help secure and test your pc Page 1 security.iggyz.com
Albertsons introduces Pay By Touch payment systems to all of its Jewel-Osco stores in Midwest Pay By Touch Press Release 3/21/2006
Finger food – Fingerprint scanners offer a new way to pay at Jewel-Osco – SJ-R.COM
Disney is collecting your fingers in the name of security – Iggy Uncensored
Is Walmart a security risk – Iggy Uncensored
Biometrics Payments at Your Fingertips Yahoo Finance
Albertsons Introduces Pay By Touch Payment Systems to All of Its Jewel-Osco Stores in Midwest Nachrichten Aktienkurs
Albertsons introduces Pay By Touch payment systems The Retail Bulletin
Biometrics Payments at Your Fingertips BusinessWeek
Touch and go for cashless pay plans – Business – theage.com.au
RFID your kids – Iggy Uncensored
Your credit history online – Is it a security risk – Iggy Uncensored
Single Government ID Moves Closer to Reality – Iggy Uncensored
Supermarket Loyalty Cards Vs National ID Cards – Iggy Uncensored
Queen’s Speech sets out plan for U.K. biometric ID card – Iggy Uncensored