Report: Biometrics

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  Identificaiton in history

In biometric technology, the subject is reduced to its physical and therefore inseparable properties. The subject is a subject in so far as it is objectified; that is, in so far as is identified with its own res extensa, Descartes' "extended thing". The subject exists in so far as it can be objectified, if it resists the objectification that comes with measurement, it is rejected or punished. Biometrics therefore provides the ultimate tool for control; in it, the dream of hermetic identity control seems to become a reality, a modern technological reconstruction of traditional identification techniques such as the handshake or the look into somebody's eyes.

The use of identification by states and other institutions of authority is evidently not simply a modern phenomenon. The ancient Babylonians and Chinese already made use of finger printing on clay to identify authors of documents, while the Romans already systematically compared handwritings.

Body measurement has long been used by the military. One of the first measures after entering the military is the identification and appropriation of the body measurements of a soldier. These measurements are filed and combined with other data and make up what today we would call the soldier's data body. With his data body being in possession of the authority, a soldier is no longer able freely socialise and is instead dependent on the disciplinary structure of the military institution. The soldier's social being in the world is defined by the military institution.

However, the military and civilian spheres of modern societies are no longer distinct entities. The very ambivalence of advanced technology (dual use technologies) has meant that "good" and "bad" uses of technology can no longer be clearly distinguished. The measurement of physical properties and the creation of data bodies in therefore no longer a military prerogative, it has become diffused into all areas of modern societies.

If the emancipatory potential of weak identities is to be of use, it is therefore necessary to know how biometric technologies work and what uses they are put to.

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-1   Identity vs. Identification
0   Identificaiton in history
+1   Biometric technologies
+2   Face recognition
+3   Iris recognition
Biometrics applications: privacy issues