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Fingerprint ID and tracking retail sales

  1. Apr 12, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Fingerprint ID accounts are being introduced here in Oregon, right now. A couple of retail grocery stores, Safeway is one I think, are introducing private, member based systems that automatically charge your account with a simple fingerprint scan.

    Although no different in principle that credit card use, or a private card account, this is getting a bit big brotherish [sic], as expected. For now this is all private information, but soon it may be possible, for example, for your employer to track your purchases. One example given: Bob buys two six packs of beer at the store. Analysis of Bob's purchasing history indicates that Bob may have a drinking problem. Contact Bob's employer and doctor, and communicate the potential for a problem.

    I also wonder about the logic of behavior control and where that may lead in all of this. For example, taking things to the next logical step, will we begin to regulate the sugar, fat, or salt intake of potential or known food offenders. After all, like cigarettes, consumption of low quality foods accounts for many health problems and costs to the public - obesity, heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. The logic is no different than that used to justify taxes on smoking, or the seat belt or helmet laws. Also, if citizen X buys a snow board, should he be assigned as high risk and penalized somehow? He is much more likely to cost the system money than someone less daring. A unified database could, hence probably will allow various institutions to monitor personal behavior through purchases and other trackable activities. Computing power makes the data management and interpretation possible.
     
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  3. Apr 12, 2005 #2
    What concerns me with such things as fingerprints, is that unlike other forms of ID, these are used as forensic evidence for conviction of crimes. Other than that (Big Brother), tracking consumer behavior is used for what good purpose? As an aside, I have a friend who uses other people's telephone numbers at grocery stores and then collects the coupons that should have gone to those other people. I guess the fingerprint approach would stop him in his little scam. :smile:
     
  4. Apr 12, 2005 #3

    Pengwuino

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    This is no different from what happens now when you use a credit card. The company, if it wanted, could find out exactly what you bought if they wanted to. Theres nothing stopping them except the fact that they obviously dont want to. Fingerprint ID wouldnt change this approach 1 singel bit (or ... shouldnt... who knows with humans). Anything you can do with a finger printi scan technology such as being discussed can be done with a credit card if the credit card companies ever decided to.
     
  5. Apr 12, 2005 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    In principle I agree and even stated as much. I guess that the personal aspect of a fingerprint, albeit very cool from a technical standpoint, does represent a step towards the seemingly inevitable loss of privacy in that this is much more personal than a number. But the real issue in my mind is that it seems to me that these systems cannot possibly remain private. The trend towards behavior control also strengthens this view since the same old forget-the-constitution logic applies. If it protects or affects the public, the rights, or in this case the privacy of the individual, are secondary. Not to mention that illegal practices will certainly become more common.
     
  6. Apr 12, 2005 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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  7. Apr 12, 2005 #6

    Kerrie

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    Fingerprinting for a grocery store??? I don't shop at Safeway because of high prices, but I definitely won't shop there now! Of course, the fingerprinting thing isn't much different then those cards you use to get the best prices. If you don't have one, you don't get the sale price (that's why I shop at WINCO :biggrin: ).
     
  8. Apr 12, 2005 #7

    Pengwuino

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    Actually one dangerous thing that probably makes it a bad idea is the fact that if you are the victim of identity theft or lose your credit cards... your life is going to be horrible for a while.... but man, you can erase your credit cards and fix your credit history and get new cards... but you cant get a new fingerprint!

    But then again... how do you steal and actually USE someones fingerprint illegally like this? I mean come to think of it .... it might actually be a safer method of shopping! Steal someones ID through say, that database adn you got all the numbers related to a persons credit card and such. But if you steal a fingerprint.... what do you have? Nothing really. If its digitized, how are you suppose to turn that into a physical thing you can fraudulently use at say a grocery store? If its just an image.... again, how do you use it? A retinal scan would be hte ultimate because THERES something I dont see ANYONE being able to use fraudulently.
     
  9. Apr 12, 2005 #8
    Ever see Minority Report with Tom Cruise? :smile:
     
  10. Apr 12, 2005 #9

    Pengwuino

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    Nope but i hope your not going to contradict me with info from a movie staring some jackass who got paid $25,000,000 then goes and tells people like my parents that we make too much money and pay too little taxes.

    Woo, had that rant in my all day and was waiting for an opportunity to dish it out.
     
  11. Apr 12, 2005 #10

    Hurkyl

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    I'm sorry, the leap of logic must just be too much for me. A grocery store wants to try biometrics, and suddenly big brother is breathing down our necks?
     
  12. Apr 12, 2005 #11

    Pengwuino

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    lol yah. I dont get this idea that if any small random thing that 'detects' something comes into play, people og crazy about 'big brother!' even though the idea of 'big brother' doesnt have an actual single identity ( is it corporations or is it government? )
     
  13. Apr 12, 2005 #12

    russ_watters

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    Ditto. Credit cards -> Big Brother telling us what we can eat? Not seeing it.

    Further, privacy and anonymity are obsolete concepts in the information age. Not only do attempts at secrecy fail, they are counter-productive. And with identity theft being a real problem, databases of things that are nearly impossible to forge like fingerprints or retinal scans are only a positive thing.

    Yes, I did just say that: the more unique information a grocery store (for example) has about you, the safer your identity is. The typical reflex reaction is that giving personal information reduces your safety. That isn't necessarily true.

    And while I realize this country was practically founded on mistrust of authority, there are a lot of instances - and this is one of them - where more than just not making sense, it is counterproductive.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2005
  14. Apr 12, 2005 #13

    Moonbear

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    Oops, I guess they're onto me. :uhh: I have a habit of generously allowing others in line with me to use my shopper card for the grocery store if they forgot theirs. I figure let them get the discount and thwart the market researchers trying to track what I buy. That's all they really do with that sort of information. Oh, and if you're worried about Big Brother, just pay cash for vices. :biggrin: Though, I've contemplated signing up for a second shopper card to use only for vices. What do you think those market researchers would think if the only things I ever bought when I swipe it are condoms and alcohol? Should I buy some whipped cream with it too? :rofl: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's people like me that make them want a better way to keep track of purchasing habits of individuals for their market research. :rolleyes:
     
  15. Apr 12, 2005 #14

    Hurkyl

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    Just use your index finger for normal purposes, and middle finger for vices. :smile:
     
  16. Apr 12, 2005 #15

    Moonbear

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    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
     
  17. Apr 13, 2005 #16

    loseyourname

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    I worked in retail management four or five years ago and we kept a database of customer activity (the program was optional). It allowed us to not only track purchasing patterns by geographic regions, times of year, and individuals to streamline our own purchasing and lower prices, it also allowed us to custom tailor promotional events and special mail offers to what our customers were most interested in buying. It benefits both parties.
     
  18. Apr 13, 2005 #17
    It's sort of a light side/dark side of the force thing. It allows companies to serve their customers better, but many unscrupulous companies sell their data to other companies and next thing you know you've got hair-growth and penis-enlargement spam filling up your mailbox. Unfortunately, it only takes 1 bad apple to ruin the bunch and you're never sure which it might be.

    As far as biometrics, I really do believe it's the way of the future. It's just too easy to get that little piece of plastic stolen and I can't remember the last time I actually had a clerk check my ID to see if it matched the credit card. Unfortunately, for the near term, there are a lot of problems to be overcome with this technology, not least of which would be getting that biometric data stolen. Since your fingerprint/retinal scan/etc would become a one-shot deal, some of the older security devices like passwords would fall by the wayside. Thus, if someone were able to spoof your biometric data, they could theoretically do much more damage than they could with today's systems.
     
  19. Apr 13, 2005 #18

    Kerrie

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    While I understand your logic, the whole idea of using fingerprints doesn't appear unsafe, just more "invasive". It's bad enough that companies you hardly know can just bring up your credit report and get a good idea of how you choose to live your financial life without your consent. Some people just prefer to be more anonymous.
     
  20. Apr 13, 2005 #19

    Pengwuino

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    Hmm are you sure Kerrie? The way ive had to sign papers to authorize companies to look at my credit history for my business, i would have to wonder if thats true lol.
     
  21. Apr 13, 2005 #20

    Moonbear

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    I don't see how credit cards are any more anonymous; afterall, your name is stamped right on it, and every transaction goes into a big database. As long as we never replace the option of cash transactions, you always have the option of anonymity in your purchases (well, except for the clerk and the security camera seeing your face as you make the purchase :rolleyes:).

    A few issues that I think would need to be resolved with biometrics though are when you do have multiple users on a single account; for example, when you get the company credit card to purchase gas for the company car, if you have a list of authorized users with fingerprints on file for the card, how do you restrict its use? Currently, you just limit when you give them the card. Also, how does the person making the payment ensure the charge goes to the company account and not their own if it's the same fingerprint used for both? And what happens if you cut your finger? Is it going to recognize my fingerprint if I have a big gash across the finger? How do I pay for my purchases if I have my hand in a splint?

    I'm not too concerned about them getting my fingerprints on file. I'm not planning on committing any felonies and since I have a passport, my fingerprints are on file somewhere already anyway. I think I'd be more concerned that instead of muggers demanding your wallet, they're going to want to cut off your finger! :yuck:

    Okay, I'm not being too serious in these suggestions, but I neither think biometrics is going to be the final solution to anything, nor am I overly worried that it is going to somehow give "big brother" any more ability to monitor us than they already can.
     
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