Biometric Payment Systems Coming Online

By Ellen McCarthy / Washington Post

A biometric payment system made by a Herndon, Va., firm, is starting to be installed at convenience stores and supermarket chains, including Piggly Wiggly, another step in a revolution that is turning the human body into the ultimate identification card. Already, faces and fingerprints are used to track visitors coming into the country. Computer passwords are being replaced by thumbprints at some companies and iris scans are giving consumers in England and Germany access to their bank accounts at ATMs.

The owner of BioPay LLC, which makes the technology used at the store, predicts the finger scan soon will be ubiquitous, offering speed and convenience for consumers. But civil libertarians have raised privacy concerns, citing some recent problems. In February, ChoicePoint Inc., a background-screening company that collects personal information — including biometric data — said it inadvertently sold more than 100,000 profiles to identity thieves.

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