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Subject: When a Palm Reader Knows More Than Your Life Line
From: Monty Solomon <[log in to unmask]>
When a Palm Reader Knows More Than Your Life Line
By NATASHA SINGER
November 10, 2012
"PLEASE put your hand on the scanner," a receptionist at a doctor's
office at New York University Langone Medical Center said to me
recently, pointing to a small plastic device on the counter between
us. "I need to take a palm scan for your file."
As a reporter who has been covering the growing business of data
collection, I know the potential drawbacks - like customer profiling
- of giving out my personal details. But the idea of submitting to an
infrared scan at a medical center that would take a copy of the
unique vein patterns in my palm seemed fraught.
The receptionist said it was for my own good. The medical center, she
said, had recently instituted a biometric patient identification
system to protect against identity theft.
I reluctantly stuck my hand on the machine. If I demurred, I thought,
perhaps I'd be denied medical care.
Next, the receptionist said she needed to take my photo. After the
palm scan, that seemed like data-collection overkill. Then an office
manager appeared and explained that the scans and pictures were
optional. Alas, my palm was already in the system.
No longer the province of security services and science-fiction
films, biometric technology is on the march. Facebook uses
facial-recognition software so its members can automatically put name
tags on friends when they upload their photos. Apple uses voice
recognition to power Siri. Some theme parks take digital fingerprints
to help recognize season pass holders. Now some hospitals and school
districts are using palm vein pattern recognition to identify and
efficiently manage their patients or students - in effect, turning
your palm into an E-ZPass.