Not in Vein: Patenting Vein Imaging Technology for Identification Purposes

To some, it might seem like 1984 is becoming reality. Recently, Apple patented a method, in the USA, for identifying people using vein recognition. Titled “Vein imaging using detection of pulsed recognition”, this patent protects an “optical transmitter” that emits “infrared radiation” on a “living subject”, an “optical receiver” that creates a “output” that is indicative of the “modulation of pulses” and a processor that creates an “image of blood vessels” based off the pulses’ modulation.  Vein imaging would be much more difficult to forge than other forms of biometric identification like fingerprinting.

With the patent only granted this week, it will be interesting to see the public reaction to this patent. Biometric identification, in general, has been a subject of both praise and criticism. Some security experts have lauded biometric identification because it does away with the need for memorizing passwords or number codes. They might be even more receptive to a type of biometric identification with a low risk of failure

However, others take a more critical approach to biometric identification. Some argue that biometric identification is a threat to people’s civil liberties and they are concerned about the storage of such data. For example in 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with other groups, criticized a FBI biometric database for inadequately protecting privacy rights. One wonders how such organizations will respond to vein imaging. Since vein imaging has higher degrees of accuracy and civil liberties groups frequently argue that biometric identification is wrong, will they more receptive of it compared to other types of such identification? On the other hand, will they view its increased accuracy as particularly invasive?

Whatever the public reaction will be, it will most likely be a strong one.


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