Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Dawn of the Smart Ages. (Identity Cards)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Dawn of the Smart Ages. (Identity Cards)

Article excerpt

The world is catching on to smart cards as a way of easing the growing tension between security issues and civil liberties. The concept is simple. Resembling a telephone card, the smart card contains computer chips that hold and process huge amounts of data.

In Britain, they are already being successfully used by 43,000 people in a scheme led by Cornwall County Council. The Cornish Citizen Card, as this particular smart card is known, has successfully replaced cards for library membership, fare concessions, council employee identification, school meals and car-parking tickets.

But it is the border passage project at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport that is most exciting security specialists. The scheme allows pre-registered passengers to pass through security by scanning their eyes. This biometric security technology identifies the passenger by cross-referencing a real-time eye scan with iris data that has been pre-recorded. To avoid privacy issues, the data is kept on a personal smart card rather than on a computer database.

The project began in 2001 as a service aimed at frequent flyers. It has since grown in scale and, for a fee of [pounds sterling]139, is now open to any resident of the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland. There are currently 7,000 users, but this is set to rise with KLM's forthcoming frequent-flyer deal.

The scheme seems faultless. It is user-friendly (glasses, contact lenses and colour lenses can be worn with-out interfering with the process), and there are no hygiene issues, as identification is contactless. …

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