Prof. Kerr Visits Ottawa Morning to Discuss Privacy Implications of Fingerprint Scanners

Posted on Friday, July 16, 2010

Professor Ian Kerr visited CBC Radio One’s Ottawa Morning on July 12, 2010 to discuss the “Money at My Fingertips” optional payment system at Ottawa’s new Calypso Water Park, which uses cutting-edge fingerprint scanning technology.


Patrons of the water park are given the option of putting money into an account which is linked to a scan of their fingertips. They are then able to pay for snacks and souvenirs by putting their fingers on a special reader. The system gives patrons an easy way to have access to money without having to worry about carrying money in their swimsuits. Customers must sign a privacy policy before using the system.

Prof. Kerr says he has been monitoring this type of biometric technology for half-a-dozen years now, and while the current system at the Calypso Water Park respects all of Canada’s laws governing biometric devices, he notes that it does raise some privacy concerns. “This is a direction that we're certainly moving in, and it's a direction where people are willing to sacrifice the exchange of personal information in order to receive a convenience,” says Prof. Kerr. “It's something I don't think many of us think carefully enough about when we enter into those kinds of bargains.”

“Even though you might get mass amounts of people to consent to getting their fingerprint taken to be able to use it as a cash device at a water park,” he continues, “what people aren't consenting to – because how could they – is knowing exactly how that fingerprint information will then be associated with other information. As soon as credit card information is tied to the biometric fingerprint, all of the sudden the association of those two data points reveals a plethora of information that people aren't thinking about in terms of the kinds of things that could be linked by databases or data mining.”

Click here to listen to the full interview.

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