The application of biometrics emanated because of the increased need for governments and business organizations to identify individuals for security concerns. The most common use of the system is in the identification and classification of criminals, inmates and their visitors in correctional institutions. There are numerous tangible benefits of using the technology owing to the characteristics of uniqueness, convenience, and its ability to achieve strong authentication. Many governments have extensively adopted the technology to make e-border programs, national identity cards, and e-passports used for port and air security. The business world has also widely adopted the technology in financial services, as well as travel and transport industries. The technology is particularly important in the correctional environment due to the significant need for access and control. The institutions such as jails experience high population turnover, raising the need to identify and account for the movement of visitors, staff, and inmates. However, the use of the technology has raised various concerns. According to civil liberty organizations, the technology violates the people’s rights to anonymity and privacy. It allows criminals and governments to intrude into the personal information of other individuals, which may facilitate actions that undermine democratic rights and personal freedoms. Further, biometric systems are prone to failure. Therefore, this paper explores serious privacy, reliability, ethical, safety, and accuracy concerns of the biometric technology in correctional facilities. The paper asserts that technology fails to secure personal privacy, incorporate cultural and religious beliefs of particular groups, and prevent unintended intentions in the process of data collection, storage, and utilization.
Biometric systems collect and link large amounts of information about inmates and their visitors. The large database of personal information and its surveillance raise privacy concerns. The information might be used only if it is approved by the individuals. Therefore, the possibility of putting the information in an unauthorized use also raises legal and regulatory concerns explained below.
One of the issues that raise privacy concerns is record linkage. Information about individuals is usually stored in different databases. The law enforcement agencies link such information to form profiles. Data linkage raises concerns of the possibility of undesirable linkage and raises a question whether there is a policy that prevents such linkage. Other privacy concerns raised include whether inmates and their visitors whose data is stored have a mechanism to monitor compliance with the policies that prevent unauthorized linkage.
Record linkage may cause the compromise of anonymity. Privacy is not guaranteed even for a biometric system that does not link data internally. The data may be linked to another system that connects biometric data to identity data. Even a tamper-proof biometric system may compromise privacy if connected to other external systems. The data may be used in ways that are not originally anticipated or specified. The privacy breaches may erode the trust of the system and the institution that requires the use of the technology. The potential violation of personal privacy may make segments of the society unwilling to submit their biometrics when serving a jail sentence or visiting an inmate ("Global defense forces," 2013).
The second privacy concern posed by the use of biometric technology is covert surveillance. Data recognition systems work at a distance and can enable associating actions and information with a particular individual without the individual’s participation. For example, regular visitors of inmates submit their personal information and biometrics. The tracking of data raises privacy concerns of the involved people. The biometric system may deny the individuals in the society who desire to remain anonymous. If the technology is deployed in all correctional institutions and people become aware of these privacy concerns, they will distrust institutions that use the technology (Muraskin, 2010).
Accuracy and Reliability
Despite the biometric system has significantly advanced, its accuracy can be questioned. The system is prone to imperfect matches, false confirmations, and false rejections. Fingerprinting is said to cause the highest rate of errors among the biometric processes. In 2014, a fingerprint scanning system of the new private sector prison in the United States failed and brought all operations to a halt. The guards were left with the only option of carrying manual checks. Furthermore, facial recognitions have shown various instances where a photo of an inmate taken in a dark or extremely bright place fails to identify the individual when examined in a different environment with differing light intensity. The use of iris recognition is more accurate as compared to the above two methods but depends on algorithms that leave room for human error. They are also too expensive to use.
Biometric systems also pose reliability issues. The extensive use of biometric systems may deprive some members of the society their rights. In the case where all prisons use the biometric system, some people such as the family members of the inmate may opt not to visit. Members of certain religious and cultural affiliations have beliefs about body parts and personal characteristics. For example, Muslims keep a beard and wear headscarves. A biometric system such as facial recognition will not effectively yield consistent results since such characteristics may not be permanent. The religious group may also not be willing to visit the prisons or submit the members of their group to a correctional institution to protect their religious values ("Global defence forces," 2013).
The use of a biometric system also excludes members that have certain physical deformities. People with vision impairment may not use the system that recognizes the iris and those without hands or the crippled may not use the fingerprint biometric system. The people are overtly concerned about the compromise or misuse of data in the biometric system in relation to privacy and personal liberty.
Consequently, a mandatory use of the biometric system in correctional institutions may violate religious and cultural values and create discrimination against the groups that are not allowed to touch or expose certain body parts or taking photographs. Therefore, the system is not reliable for the use in the society where people have a firm position about on personal, religious, and cultural beliefs.