Thursday, September 03, 2009

Securing the Perimeter

Questions of authentication have been very much on my mind of late, as I think about how contracts have traditionally required seals, signatures, or other proofs of identity that become much trickier to produce in online environments. So it was with great interest that I saw electronic screens advertising the advantages of, a system of kiosks to automate passport control functions by using bar read

ers and scans of biometric data. The catch with such a system, of course, involves what its tolerances would be. I know that one Christmas Eve, one of my son's European friends ended up in immigration limbo because the fingerprints left by his guitar-playing calloused hands didn't quite match their fingerprints on record. With this fifteen-year-old facing a holiday spent in detention, rhetorical appeals to live minders were required when automated systems got authentication wrong.

I also learned about, an RFID-based system for "Western Hemisphere" travelers within North America to allow drive-through access.

The Customs and Border Protection agency that hosts both programs still has a relatively conventional government website with little integration of Web 2.0 technologies.

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