Ear Canal Biometrics

Ear Canal Biometrics

Van Gogh Just Wanted to Keep His Privacy! Welcome to the Brave New World of Biometrics where it’s almost a cliché by now to picture an agent walking in and placing his eye up to a scanner and his hand on an identification plate so that his biometrics can be verified. But next time you go to a movie the scene might be more like this: The politician’s daughter picks up the ringing phone and says, “Hello?” We get a close up of a circuit inside the phone that vibrates slightly and turns red. “Daddy, it’s for you,” says the girl handing it to her father. “Hello,” says the politician, the actual intended party. This time we cut to a pulse wave speeding down the politician’s ear canal, rolling over the small hairs that line his inner ear like a wave over seaweed, and then bouncing off his inner eardrum. Cut to the light turning green.

Ok maybe that was a too valiant of a use-case for this technology. Let’s try something simpler: You iPod! Just imagine, you can soon set up your iPod to utilize the same technology that dolphins have been using since the dawn of time. When you set it up the iPod will send a pulse wave into your ear, the wave bounces back, and it will measures the caverns of your ear. Since no two ears are the same it will only unlock for that special person who owns it, i.e., you. Over the top? yes. Does it really keep people from stealing your iPod? Nope. Would the thief maybe come back and say “excuse me, I just jacked your crap, but it doesn’t work here you can have it back now”… I don’t think so. But you can sleep easy at night knowing the perp will never be able to enjoy all those Michael Bolton singles you’ve been stuffing into that little iPod.

According to an article in the Australian News Digital Media the new technology sends a pulse into the user’s ear and because the contours of the ear canal are as unique as a fingerprint this will allow the device to become unusable if there is no acoustic match. I guess Australian thieves will have to go Reservoir Dogs on their victims from now on (I know “Stuck In the Middle With You” is playing in your head right now” LOL).

In our post 9/11 world it is easy to see how such biometric measures might quickly be adopted by the security apparatus for our protection. The article itself points out that the researchers who developed the technology thought it could also be applied to bank accounts and passports, making identity theft far more difficult while at the same time increasing the possibilities for violations of what many of us think as our own “private space.” In fact the body itself is quickly becoming an organic identification card. Our eyes, the windows to our souls, might now also be an entry way to our bank accounts. At the touch of a screen we might be adding to a behavioral profile that makes the current intrusions into our sense of privacy seem like stone-age technologies. And now we have a new hobgoblin of intrusion to worry about. Every time we pick up a phone we might wonder if the ring tone is actually mapping the biometrics of our ear cannel for Big Brother. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen give us your ears…” so that we might know exactly where you are and who you are talking to.

Of course, this will only add to the paranoia of the conspiratorially minded. Those who believe that all this talk of security is just an elaborate ruse to justify further government intrusion into our lives will see this latest invention as yet another springboard into their delusions of an omnipotent government who monitors our every move. This is the nightmare view of government that we have seen already in Spielberg’s Minority Report and in the last year’s Eagle Eye to name just two of the many cinematic examples. So we have the tension of post 9/11 world: its either security or privacy, life or liberty. Which one is more important to our pursuit of happiness? Let freedom ring indeed. “Hello?”

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