Giving up some of our privacy to be safer is something we mostly grin and bear. After all, there's a certain amount of hassle involved in getting a driver's license or license plate, boarding a plane, etc. Facial recognition systems using cameras in public places have received great interest following terrorist attacks, and The New York Times recently reported that the Department of Homeland Security tested crowd-scanning technology.
Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska are three of 26 states where law enforcement can use facial recognition technology to comb driver's license databases. Facial features of a criminal suspect are cross-referenced with the images pulled from the licenses, all without a search warrant. A match can lead to a potential suspect.
Biometric technology has been around for decades and has become increasingly sophisticated. Facebook, with access to its users' photos, has the world's largest facial recognition capabilities, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. And the FBI is developing a nationwide database to add facial recognition searches to its fingerprint catalogs. Nonetheless, some believe Iowa legislators should set a higher standard so facial recognition data can't be accessed without probable cause.
As this debate rages, individual localities have more immediate concerns: how to tell if an ID used to gain entry into an age-restricted nightclub, or to drink or buy liquor, has been doctored, borrowed or stolen. Letting underage ID holders get through can have horrendous results—in DUIs and in the punishments given to gatekeepers when underage drinkers slip by them and tragedy strikes. Another kind of danger: identity thieves who use another person's ID or credit card to make a purchase, apply for a loan or get a mortgage.
One innovative company has recognized this unmet need. The mobile security experts at Intellicheck Mobilisa, Inc. of Port Townsend, Wash. have designed barZapp, a wireless identification and security system for iPhones and Android smartphones. After downloading barZapp, users aim their smartphone at the barcode and can immediately read, verify, display and analyze the results. Thanks to barZapp's backbone—Intellicheck Mobilisa's patented ID Check software—an ID's authenticity is determined by reading and verifying data in the bar codes on driver licenses, as well as on military and government IDs.
As Intellicheck Mobilisa's Chief Executive Officer, Nelson Ludlow, Ph.D., explains, "With barZapp, accepting a card or ID that is false or invalid is a thing of the past. Our app is available to anyone who needs it."