Feb 8, 2011

Fingerprint For Beer

I found a great blog with lots of posts about the newest biometric technologies, uses and such.  The site is called ThirdFactor and is actually pretty interesting if you want to check it out.  

I was reading this blog and I came across some troubling news.  Recently in Australia pubs (bars) have begun collecting biometric data at their entrance in order to keep out troublemakers.  The pubs have begun to scan fingerprints, take digital photographs, and scan IDs of their customers before letting them in.
Coogee Bay Hotel where patrons must accept a biometric scan to be allowed entrance into the pub/club.

The reasoning behind these scans is the attempt to reduce violence and other inappropriate behavior at the pubs.  If someone got in a fight at the pub they could be banned on the database and would not be allowed back in for a select period of time.  The pubs can even share ban information between one another by means of a massive database kept by a third party. 
So what is so bad about this? It sounds like a noble attempt to reduce violence and in fact it works, reducing one pub’s Alcohol-related incidents by 80 percent.  The problem is how the information is regulated: it’s not.  Currently Australia does not cover biometrics under privacy laws, thus there is no need for the pubs to treat this information in the sensitive matter it deserves.  If pubs are effectively keeping massive databases of people’s fingerprints, faces and ID’s the potential for fraud is enormous if that information were to be hacked or misused. 
One major problem with biometrics is that unlike passwords or ID’s  they cannot be replaced or changed if they are stolen.  You will have your same finger print throughout your life (with some exceptions), and a new one cannot be assigned to you if you have your identity stolen. 
People do not even realize how much power they are giving the pubs by giving them their fingerprint and their picture.  In effect the pubs have more power than even the police in Australia who are only allowed to scan someone’s biometric information if that person is accused of a crime (and must destroy the data if the person is not convicted).

As one pub goer put it she did not like the scans but “like most people in here, I just agreed to let it happen, so I could come in and join my friends''.

So what do you think about this?  How would you react if the next time you hit the town, the bar/club you were going to asked you for your biometric information?


Source: ZDNet


  1. I agree with your concern on the privacy issues of the system. I personally have no issue with having to scan my finger before entering if it would help reduce the violence in the bar. I have a security clearance and my fingerprints are already in the government system. I guess I'm more trusting that the company/bar would not plant my fingerprint at a crime scene. If I get framed for a crime that I did not commit I would not be too happy (happened in an episode of White Collar). Although that brings up the issue if the records were stolen or fell into the wrong hands. Interesting post.

  2. If the bars had a strict privacy policy with your fingerprint like the government does and whoever granted your security clearance must have then I would have no problem with it. The reality of it for now however, is that in Australia your fingerprint information is seen as about as valuable as your (public) tweets. Aka not very important. There needs to be regulations in place to safeguard that information.

  3. How could they use finger prints to steal identities? Is it connected to a database that includes other personal information? Because if they just get your name with your finger print, then I don't think it's too bad.

    Though, if they are getting more information, then I think security regulations really do need to be put in place. However, I hope that this doesn't mean that the idea will be abandoned completely. I like the idea of keeping potential threats out of places.

  4. Check out this website it seems to have a lot of cool stuff on it that you might be interested in. And if you get the chance you should watch "Track Me if You Can" on the discovery channel.


  5. @ J.D.- Yes the database includes a picture of you as well as a copy of your driver's license. You are correct on the fact that falsifying your fingerprint is near impossible but I still think it should have more legal protection.

    @ Taylor- Thanks a lot for the advice, I watched the documentary you suggested and it is great. I might talk about a part of it on a later post.

  6. Ooh, I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but I'm always worried about the slippery slope. If they can let you out for being a troublemaker, I also wonder if other establishments could let you out for other reasons (for being black, or poor, or whatever!). I don't know. Just wondering about all this surveillance....

    Great post!

  7. This is a great post. I personally have my prints on file...because of a bar. If this were to be implemented, they could possibly know my history and make assumptions that I would be a problem and not let me in. This is a huge invasion of privacy. Instead of getting DNA evidence that someone is 21 and taking record of who is entering, take some initiative, get some common sense and hire a bouncer that can make judgement calls without prying into the private life of customers.

  8. @ Cold Steel 1037- I totally agree with you I will actually post a little later about how one effective method could be used without the huge invasion of privacy.