The former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has taken the opportunity of the 15th anniversary of that agency’s creation to expound on the benefits of biometrics.
The DHS was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And, as former DHS head Tom Ridge writes in an opinion piece for CNBC, he was “an early supporter of biometrics at DHS” who remains “a champion for the technology.” With the US Customs and Border Protection agency now intensively exploring the advantages of biometric border control, Ridge was there in the beginning, when the idea of biometric traveler screening was in its nascent stages with programs like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
Of course, biometric border screening’s expansion has also produced some pushback, with privacy rights and other civil liberties activities mounting thoughtful criticisms pertaining to things like the invasiveness of such systems and the need to adequately protect citizens’ biometric data. But from his current perspective in the private sector, Ridge is keen to emphasize not only the security benefits of such technologies but also the benefits to citizens in terms of convenience and simplicity: “Consumers will increasingly be using their mobile phone camera to scan government identity documents, carry boarding passes and authenticate themselves via facial biometrics as they travel,” Ridge writes.
And, as a board member of Daon, the company behind the popular IdentityX biometric authentication platform, Ridge sees benefits from biometrics far beyond border control. Biometric technologies may still be controversial in the hands of government and law enforcement officials, but in the hands of consumers, as Ridge notes, “you’re unlocking your phone, buying apps and accessing various accounts.” And that convenience will only get more pronounced as biometric authentication finds wider applications.