Registered Traveler: Orwellian Nightmare?

An interesting piece
in USA Today about
the whole biometric / privacy debate. You may remember the news about a new program that was created to help speed
frequent travelers through the security line. Called
Registered Traveler, the program
uses biometric cards encoded with a digital fingerprint and iris images to allow people who travel a lot to bypass long
security lines. If you have one of these cards, you get to enter the “fast lane”. Then you simply slide your card
through a reader, and press your finger on a print reader or allow a scanner to check your retina. The program is
entirely voluntary, and is being tested in six airports around the country. The
Transportation Security Administration is expanding the program to several new
airports this year.

Of course, this does not sit well with the hard-core privacy crowd. They see in the program all sorts of potential for
abuse, believing that programs like this will lead to an inevitable slide into an Orwellian or
GATTACA state where large corporations can track us and manipulate
us like sheep (which, face it, they already do through cell phones, banks, credit card purchases, EZ-Pass and so on).
They do have a point, because the program’s expansion seems to include the opportunity for big businesses like credit
card companies to use the cards to reduce fraud. The program also gets more complicated because they require a fee to
join, and airports and others are wondering where the money is going and, they say, the expansion detracts from the
original goal of the program, and that is to make airport security more efficient.

It’s a fascinating and complex series of questions. Personally, I don’t really share the views of the privacy
advocates, at least the extreme ones. I think this kind of thing is inevitable. Not that I am just laying down about
the potential for abuse, but in a democracy with such a vibrant press as ours, I suspect the egregious abuses will be
kept to a minimum. But who knows?Am I kidding myself?