James Bond-style technology is being produced in Plymouth: iris-scanning technology for booking prisoners, facial, iris and fingerprint recognition programming for a cop's iPhone; a biometric database for sex offenders, among other products.
But is the gadgetry developed by firms like BI2 Technologies and sold to dozens of law enforcement entities necessarily good for the country?
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Depends on whom you ask.
Cops and guys like Sean Mullin, the president and CEO of the Plymouth tech firm, certainly think so. Mullin says such technology makes life easier for police and citizens alike. It saves time and offers reliable identity information, he says. Your iris, he says, can't be faked and mobile biometric identification makes it easier to cross-reference wanted criminals. The market for such products is booming, he says, as the technology becomes more affordable and law enforcement become increasingly more comfortable using such tools.
However, not everyone is welcoming such products with open arms. Take Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. She is among those who are concerned about the growing over-militarization of police in the U.S.
Police run the risk of trampling civil liberties in their race to obtain the most cutting edge technology, she says.
"Technologies like this -- iris and face recognition -- have a way of spreading in ways that are not totally appropriate," she said. "Whoever you think they're going to be spying on or using them on; it's going to end up impacting you, too."
Such concerns have grown louder across the country recently, in light of the reaction to the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
"All too often there is literally zero conversation about whether or not people want this," said Crockford. "This is definitely related to the militarization of police. It illustrates the breakdown between military and local and state police."
Crockford says there are still many unanswered questions regarding how authorities use such biometric information.
"We don't really know the rules yet. What's the impact on privacy? What level of information sharing will there be?" she asked.
Mullin is aware of the civil liberty concerns and is quick to point out "two hundred plus years of constitutional law does not go away because someone comes up with another gadget."
"You have to have probable cause to scan someone's iris," he said.
He says the his firm has sold about 380 iris-scanning systems and products to agencies in 47 states.
The iris database his company has built over the last six years has completed 12.2 billion successful cross-matches with a "zero percent false match rate," he says.
The demand for such products, he says, is only increasing. He foresees iris-identifying products to increase not only in law enforcement circles, but also in banking, finance and health care industries in years to come.
"The market is growing at an incredibly rapid rate," he said. "That's the direction it's going in."