Cover your mouth! #Breathprints may identify you in the #SurveillanceState

posted Apr 26, 2013, 3:00 AM by Peter Joseph Moons   [ updated Apr 30, 2013, 7:46 PM ]
Surveillance State Blog

Comments by Peter Joseph Moons.

Another bio-metric data point is becoming available: Breathprints.  Exhalation from humans will be analyzed at the molecular level to provide individual identification.  There are multiple benefits for this emerging technology.  First, if a human's breathprint is unique, meaning the individual's breath differs from all others, then this is a potential method for self-identification, possibly replacing identity cards, passwords, or even transport fare.  Also, a breathprint could act as a secondary identification method, after a retinal scan or other collection, to identify personnel authorized to be somewhere, such as a place of work or school.

Privacy advocates will question how far the technology of breath identification will pervade civil society.  In the public square, or in private businesses, there is great potential for non-invasive collection of bio data: for identification of personnel as stated above, for limiting or preventing entry, for cataloging and databasing users, as well as for targeted advertising.  Many consumers may welcome this last activity, wherein the shopper is identified upon entering a shop and offered sales and coupons based on their past purchases and suggested items; other shoppers may continually see this method as intrusive.

The potential for privacy invasion could exist, depending on one's perspective, if breathprint data were to be collected without the knowledge of the person when they have an expectation of privacy.  Moreover, the individual has to ask: "Do you "own" your "core signature?" (as the article mentions, breathprints are part of what makes you 'you').  Thus, should breathprints be disclosed, databased, sold, and accessed by governments or businesses?  Legislation may have to address this issue some day.

In a highly regimented society, breathprints would be added to the spectrum of collection capabilities in urban environments, along with other technologies mentioned in this Surveillance State Blog,to provide a wholistic identification and tracking capability, especially if an individual's breathprint could be singled out from a crowd.

Control Grade: 7. (Potential.)

Freedom Grade: 3. (A personal defense against identification from one's breath, for those who want to maintain their privacy, may eventually be identified and available.  Until then, when the technology matures and once sensors are established, the only mitigation from collection of breath would be avoidance of any sensors.)