For the last five years, enforcement agencies across this slowly decaying, still great nation, have been amassing biometric data on anyone arrested or detained– or in some cases, neither– and processing it through databases like MORIS, the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System. Yes, there’s an app for that, and it’ll scan your iris or fingerprint right there on the sidewalk. It’s only slightly ironic that such an ominous system has been anthropomorphized through such a banal human moniker. Not since Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL have the perils of technology appeared so innocuous.
Add facial recognition and voice scans to the mix and you have the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System which will make the NSA’s current dissection of personal privacy seem like overhearing an ambient conversation from a neighboring phonebooth (remember those?)
Orwell, Huxley, Asimov, Lemme, Herbert, Clarke and Phillip K. Dick may have imagined the large scale effects technology gone wrong– like being reprogrammed by the State into a docile “Delta” whose primary directive is to be an “eager consumer,” or dispatching Pre-Crime Units to arrest you for misdeeds you have yet to commit– but none of them quite imagined the depth of the minutia we’re now confronting (combatting), en masse. The most uncanny depiction of our collective futures might be the future noir film Gattaca, where we’re biogenetically surveilled– categorized by our DNA– and then segregated into superior and lesser classes.
London, New York, Chicago, and countless other cities already enjoy the dubious distinction of being intensely surveilled, moreso than most citizens walking the streets imagine, even though it’s perfectly public information. New York can thank Rudy Giuliani, 9/11 and Bill Gates’ obsequious team at Microsoft for the Domain Awareness System, a reticulum of three thousand plus networked micro-cameras perpetually capturing visual data, regardless of criminal activity, and accessible by the Authorities, whomever they are, at will. The newest hi-res cameras can scoop up iris scans from fifteen feet away. No permission required.
And once your eyeballs, vocal cord structure or DNA helix goes digital, good luck protecting it. Exact replications are achievable with a keystroke, literally, and if Big Government isn’t already mining these bio-identifiers (they are), surely Big Business is (bank on it). And with the next wave of federal storage farms now being constructed, the ones measuring over two million square feet, every byte of your biometric lowdown is being stored in perpetuity for future genetic-probing. Add the unfortunate reality that alterations in our legal system lag behind technology by at least a generation, and you see a perfect digital storm forming right before your camera eye.
I’ve already begun collecting eyeballs, (storable in that liquid-ice-tube thingy seen in Chu’s lab from the movie Blade Runner) vocal simulations (easily created in ProTools) and multiple sets of faux DNA samples (a cotton swab from a passed-out drunk friend or a “roofied” one-night stand’s inner cheek and a sterile storage fridge is all you need). I want to able to be able to swap out my identity, or choose complete anonymity, as easily as I’m forced to give it up. With today’s booming counter-tech industry, it’ll be as easy as changing a password. All I’ll have to do then is remember who I am.