operatives (from infantry battalion intel analysts to their counterparts at the
CIA) are becoming big fans of biometrics. That's a word that covers all those
physical or behavioral characteristics that make individuals, or groups,
unique. Soldiers, like police, are big fans of evidence, and the use of it to
solve puzzles. Biometrics has, in the last decade, provided a lot more kinds of
The oldest biometric is your appearance, which is pretty unique. Next
came fingerprints, which were first recognized as a biometric indicator four
centuries ago, but did not become a feature of police work until 150 years ago.
That was followed by blood types and a whole bunch of stuff you could only do
with dead bodies. But in the past few decades, there's been a lot more. DNA,
automated facial recognition, iris patterns and many more. But all this has
been accompanied by new technologies that have made it easier to collect, store
and retrieve biometric data. That made it possible to use biometric data on the
battlefield. Al Qaeda was defeated in Iraq partly because of a huge (several
hundred thousand individuals) biometric database, collected during raids or
after arrest by U.S. troops. This took anonymity away from many terrorists, and
potential terrorists or terrorist supporters. Made it much easier to run down
the bad guys later.
But now behavioral biometrics is in play. This is using unique behaviors
of people to identify them. The first one of these to get heavy use was typing
patterns. Actually, this one was first discovered in the 19th century, when
telegraph operators found they could recognize each other by the pattern each
used when tapping the telegraph key. This was called an operators
"chop", and was eventually applied to how people hit the keys on a
typewriter, or computer keyboard. It was eventually found that everyone had a
distinctive "chop" when using a computer keyboard, and software could
be used to recognize individuals.
The availability of cheaper and higher resolution digital cameras made
possible new biometric identifiers, like gait analysis (we each walk with a
distinctive gait). This proved useful when using UAVs to look for elusive
terrorists below. But it could also be used just as a surveillance tool. Of
course you can deceive behavioral biometrics, but it isn't easy, and you're
never sure that your change up has fooled the software.