Governments that are looking to protect health benefit records and safeguard citizens from identity thieves might want to check out their favorite spy movies for a clue about what help is coming.

Technology is on the rise that scans palm prints, eyes and voices to allow access into rooms or data and to verify identities. Based on biometrics, these systems recognize individuals by analyzing unique characteristics of a person's body or behavior.

But with recent advances in the technology, new biometrics systems are coming onto the scene, such as the full-body scanners that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced will be landing at 11 U.S. airports by summer 2010. And as more scanning systems roll out, and through which citizens are linked to databases, privacy advocates stress the risks of having personal information in the open.

"We don't want to the see the same problems we've seen with other identification systems," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group in Washington, D.C. "Before people jump in the deep end of the pool, they need to really consider the short-term and long-term consequences. Any information that's collected has got to be protected."

But that's not stopping Evan Smith, CEO for Eye Controls, an iris recognition biometrics company based in Virginia. Since launching in 2007, he said, his company has implemented its SafeMatch system at six health clinics and a construction site, and has been in talks with various government agencies.


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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer