America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society
by Lisa S. Nelson
Lisa S. Nelson explores the societal perceptions of biometric technology in her book, America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society. Looking at the complex public responses to biometric technology she examines the values, beliefs, and ideologies that influence public acceptance of technology. Drawing on her own extensive research with focus groups and a national survey, Nelson finds that considerations of privacy, anonymity, trust and confidence in institutions, and the legitimacy of paternalistic government interventions are extremely important to users and potential users of the technology.
The use of biometric technology for identification has gone from Orwellian fantasy to everyday reality. This technology, which verifies or recognizes a person’s identity based on physiological, anatomical, or behavioral patterns (including fingerprints, retina, handwriting, and keystrokes) has been deployed for such purposes as combating welfare fraud, screening airplane passengers, and identifying terrorists. The accompanying controversy has pitted those who praise the technology’s accuracy and efficiency against advocates for privacy and civil liberties. In America Identified, Lisa Nelson investigates the complex public responses to biometric technology. She uses societal perceptions of this particular identification technology to explore the values, beliefs, and ideologies that influence public acceptance of technology.
Drawing on her own extensive research with focus groups and a national survey, Nelson finds that considerations of privacy, anonymity, trust and confidence in institutions, and the legitimacy of paternalistic government interventions are extremely important to users and potential users of the technology. She examines the long history of government systems of identification and the controversies they have inspired; the effect of the information technology revolution and the events of September 11, 2001; the normative value of privacy (as opposed to its merely legal definition); the place of surveillance technologies in a civil society; trust in government and distrust in the expanded role of government; and the balance between the need for government to act to prevent harm and the possible threat to liberty in government’s actions.
About the Author
Lisa S. Nelson is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Nelson holds a PhD and J.D. from the University of Wisconsin?Madison and specializes in the field of
science, technology, and society. She has recently finished serving as a co?principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to explore the societal perceptions of biometric technology in collaboration with Bojan Cukic, PhD (WVU); Stephanie Schuckers, PhD (Clarkson); Michael Schuckers, PhD (St. Lawrence University); Anil Jain, PhD (Michigan State); and Larry Hornack, PhD (WVU). This research will be published in America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society (MIT, 2010).
She has also written several articles in journals including I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, Public Administration Review, and the University of Chicago Policy Review. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, a Fellow at the Philosophy of Science Center, and an affiliated faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Dr. Nelson’s Teaching and Research areas are Law and politics, criminal justice, constitutional law, jurisprudence, American judicial process, political theory, law and literature, law and philosophy, philosophy of science, biometrics.
Some Select Publications and Funded Research:
• America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society (MIT Press, 2010)
• ITR Collaborative Research Award, National Science Foundation, 2003-2008
• "Radiant Trust: Privacy, Trust and Technology" project funded by the Office of National Risk Assessment, 2006-Ongoing.
• "Normative Dimensions of Paternalism and Security," I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society (2006).
• "Constructing Policy: Protections, Privacy and Biometrics," Privacy and Identity: The Promise and Perils of a Technological Age. Kluwer Press, 2005.
• "Making Policy: Biometrics, Privacy and Autonomy," University of Chicago Policy Review (2004).
• "Biometrics and Privacy: Society, Perceptions, and Legal Doctrine," National Science Foundation grant funded by Information Technology Research, 2003-Present.
• Center for Identification Research (CITER) Award Recipient, 2002.
• Department of Defense Award, 2002.
• Advisory Group, Radiant Trust technology, 2002.