Big Brother

No, not the reality TV show.  The original Orwellian concept.

Is it weird that I do a fingerprint scan to get my sandwich in the morning?  Or my lunch in the afternoon, for that matter?

It’s pretty simple.  The meals we eat at work are deducted from our salary, so they need a record of when we eat in the dining room.  It’s a subsidized standard price.  I have a choice of swiping a magnetic card, or punching in my code and scanning my fingerprint to get a ticket, which I then turn over to the food people.    I usually leave the card locked in my desk drawer or my bag (which is also locked away) so I don’t have to carry it around and possibly lose it somewhere.  I don’t always have pockets.  And I’m already carrying my phone.  Which leaves the finger, which luckily is always with me.

It’s the same procedure for clocking in and out at the beginning and the end of the day, but then I’m usually carrying my things so I have the card with me,  and I’ll use it sometimes because it is faster than the scan.  Depends on the day, and how rushed I am. Or if I have a cut or a bruise on that finger.  Or if my hands are cold, which at times confuses the scanner.

I’m so used to it that I don’t even think about it.   Then this week I was chatting with a new employee on the way to lunch, and when we reached the dining room he was startled and obviously unsettled about the fingerprint thing.  Which got me wondering about exactly how invasive this is.  Or not. Technocratic, definitely.

I remember working in a store in the 1970s where we had to list two IDs and take a thumbprint on the back of every check from a customer.  No machinery, just an ink thumbprint.  Most complied, a few complained.  But I haven’t encountered that in a store in decades.  (Surveillance cameras, yes.  Thumbprints, no.)  Of course, few people today write checks, plastic is so much easier.  And now in many cases we don’t even need the plastic, most smartphones have an app that scans/uploads the barcodes of our cards and they can then be scanned directly from our phone screens at the checkout.  Less to carry.  And kinda cool.

But maybe a little bit scary.

Is using our fingerprints simply a safe method of identification, or an invasion of privacy?  And given that we live in a world where we balance privacy vs. security, where do we draw the line?



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