Saturday, February 4, 2012

Retirement Issues — Bio IDs for Retirees

India is implementing the first-ever universal biometric ID program, which will assign a Unique Identification Number (UID) to each resident as a national proof of identity. The UID links three pieces of biometric data: a photo of the face, iris scans and fingerprints. The program aims to help the poor gain access to benefits and subsidies. India presently has dozens of ID types, virtually none of which can be used country-wide and most of which are not available to the poor.

Similar ID trial balloons have been floated in Britain and the US over the past decade. Not surprisingly, UID plans have many critics who think Big Brother is already watching us too closely. With a little thoughtful tweaking, we seniors can make a UID work to secure our access to benefits as we age. Forget fingerprints and iris scans. We have more appropriate ways to uniquely identify us using biometrics, ways that will not put us at risk of government meddling.

I’m using as my guide Wikipedia’s definition: Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to identify individuals. And further: The two categories of biometric identifiers include physiological and behavioral characteristics. You just know there’s a treasure trove of possibilities in this. Here are some of my suggestions.

Chemical Breath Analysis

Odors (or odours, if you’re a Brit) are an acknowledged biometric. Per the site …each organism produces a given odour that is characteristic to that organism.” I’d never suggest using body odor as a UID, but let’s face it, older folks have some of the most distinctive breath aromas on the planet. A CIA agent would have to be really perverse to probe that data out of idle curiosity.

Plaster Casts

Equally curiosity-proof is a plaster cast of your bunion. Though I’ve not conducted a scientific study, I’m quite certain that every bunion is unique. What’s that? You don’t have bunions? Then use the profile of your fallen arch when it’s placed on a special foot pad. What again? Your arches haven’t fallen and you have no bunion? Liar, liar, pants on fire. Unless you've spent your life barefoot on the beach, you can’t have reached seniordom without at least a hint of one or the other of these problems. However, moving on...

Spot Patterns

The patterns made by our liver (or old age) spots provide yet another biometric for a UID. The ones on your face or on your hands provide the most discrimination. If you opt for this biometric, you should overlay the behavioral (or behavioural) test of what you think the patterns represent. It’s a sort of Rorschach for seniors. When the ID is set up, you input your interpretation into the database. Anyone with a similar spot pattern will need to perceive it in your same quirky way in order to coopt your ID.

The Art of Earwax

Those with excess earwax have an additional option, that being a Pantone match to the color (or colour) of your wax. Important! Be sure to use the Pantone code for coated stock, not uncoated. Those who have used this color tool know that you get not-so-subtle variations in shades depending on the paper you print on. Likewise for your wax match. The earwax biometric has an added benefit of improving your hearing each time you are screened for a UID match.

The Lettuce Test

This ID measures how long you take to chew a three by five inch lettuce leaf. It’s predicated on the fact that many seniors have dentures, caps or other paraphernalia that render chewing food such as lettuce a challenge. Be sure to indicate which type of lettuce was used for your standard. If you’re timed using iceberg when your ID is set up, but they test you on Bibb or romaine, you’ll never pass as yourself.

Meandering Ratio

The final metric is complicated and therefore unique. You walk from point A to point B, ten feet away. A computer records you and calculates as follows: Ten divided by how many steps you take times your sway (inches from leftmost point to rightmost). This number is divided by your height in inches times your weight in pounds, and that is divided by the circumference of your right thigh. The result is your meandering ratio.

There you have it. Six alternatives to fingerprints and iris scans for a senior-friendly biometric ID system. The more we combine these together, the more secure our identity from pretenders. And the less likely some nosy government functionary will go out of his way to track our every move. Isn’t technology great?

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