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The Big Biometric Boom

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(CBS4)

(CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The futuristic high-tech security devices that only appeared in secret agent movies are now being rolled out for consumer use in everyday life.

People can access their online bank accounts with their fingerprint or even use facial recognition to unlock a smart phone, but how does it all work and will the new technology spark concerns about privacy?

With a scan of his fingerprint, blood donor Bill Heron is instantly identified at his blood bank, no photo ID is required.

“All I have to do is put my finger on the pad and they have all my information and off we go,” said Heron.

Sophisticated biometric security devices work by measuring things that are “unique” to each individual person, like a fingerprint, a voice, a person’s face or even an eye.

“Clearly the future is now, and it is coming to life,” said BIO-Key International’s Michael DePasquale.

From checking-in to work, to buying lunch at school and even entering theme parks, this new technology is already a part of everyday life for many.

Soon more computers, phones and tablets will be equipped with finger scanners which can allow access to someone’s PayPal account and even their medical records with a simple swipe.

“Consumers are overwhelmed today by passwords, pins and cards that they have to use to access all the things that are available to us now and they’re no longer secure but, more importantly, they’re becoming very inconvenient,” said DePasquale.

Industry experts said most devices don’t save actual scans or fingerprints, but instead they’re digitally reconfigured and only reference points are kept.

Heron’s blood bank said that their system uses multi-layer triple encryption to keep everything private.

“It ensures that no one can intercept or modify this secure information over the internet or network,” said Jayne Giroux. “It’s virtually impossible for anybody to steal your identity without your biometric finger data.”

So are there any privacy issues? David Jacobs of EPIC Consumer Protection Counsel doesn’t believe so.

“I don’t think it’s concerning or alarming, so long as there are protections in place and consumers are notified about how this information is going to being used and they’re assured that the data is stored securely,” said Jacobs.

Still, privacy advocates said they’re keeping a close watch on how this technology evolves because nothing is hacker proof.

“In the near future biometric information could be as useful for identify theft as a social security number,” said Jacobs. “It could even be more problematic because if your credit card number is compromised the bank can just issue you a new credit card, but it can’t issue you a new iris.”

Heron said that the new technology has made his life easier and he isn’t worried at all about the safety of his information.

“I think it’s a cool idea,” said Heron.

Anyone who still has concerns about using biometrics should be sure to ask what personal information is stored and if that information is shared.

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