Biometrics Implementation in the US Army Essay Example

The implementation of new rules at any level always raises a number of concerns among the targeted population and employees. Biometrics is not an exception out of the rules and it meets serious challenges, especially when facing the ethical norms and religious convictions of people that are totally against accepting the innovation. As a great and effective means to save the unique information about an individual, biometrical scanning is a solid and credible way to let the system remember people’s data and to avoid the documents’ counterfeit or any other type of the state deception. However, as a major opposition to such type of humans’ control, the followers of a religious point of view state that biometrics establishes a strict enumeration and surveillance of people, hence, contradicts Biblical principles. From the ethical perspective, such treatment of people is inappropriate and leads to the violation of the elementary dignity, freedom, and privacy norms.

Moreover, they say that the above-mentioned technology violates human rights, prescribed by the Constitution and deprives people of having the informational and personal privacy. The current paper deals with the disputable question of biometrics implementation in the US Army. With regard to the ethical aspects, the situation is analyzed from the perspective of religious fundamentalism and utilitarianism. As for the legal aspects, the administrative, constitutional, and administrative law will be considered. Basing on the above-mentioned aspects, the paper proves that biometrics is a disputable issue from the perspective of ethics, but it does not contradict the legal principles of the US Army and has more advantages than disadvantages, when dealing with the defense and security issues of the state.

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Biometrics is commonly defined as the measurement of life, considering the biological and behavioral issues (Baker, 2014). The federal authorities initially introduced it in 1840s with the first police mug shots and in 1872 with the fingerprints’ usage in murder conviction (Baker, 2014). However, its wide application in the army has started recently with the development of computerization, increased focus on the civil defense, airport control etc. Nowadays, the military environment is marked by the application of biometrics for the personnel identity verification, which provides or denies access to some restricted areas and ensures a strong security control (Baker, 2014). Scholars describe several characteristics of good biometric identifiers. They include the feature of universality that ensures the presence of the biometric element in all people; uniqueness, which makes it distinctive throughout population; and permanence, which makes the information remain the same over time (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). Fingerprints, retinal and iris scans, facial recognition, signature geometry, and voice verification are the types of identification that are currently used.

In addition, new biometrics technologies include DNA analysis, neural analysis, and skin patterns (Mordini & Petrini, 2007).

Multimodal systems, comprising a number of methods, are also being tested to become permanently used in the army or other federal agencies. Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts together with the terroristic attacks have strongly contributed to a new military environment and the systems that become used. Since those times, the use of biometric technology in the Army has extended considerably. In addition to the tactical and strategic control of battlefield, contribution to logistics, and weapon management, biometrics is also an effective tool to control the secured facilities, systems, and information in peaceful period. Moreover, the usage of the biometric technologies in the Army is strongly appreciated due to the security and convenience, which it provides to the human services management (Baker, 2014). With regard to these advantages, the Congress has provided $15 million for the US Army to assess the advantages and disadvantages of biometrics (Baker, 2014). Hence, one should refer to some ethical and legal concerns, related to biometrics implementation in order to understand the full image more clearly. It is important to point out that the advantages of biometrics’ implementation lie in such points as restrictions to disclose any personal data that was provided, accurate and diligent maintenance of the records, timely amendments of the records, and protection of the data security (Woodward, 2001). In addition to that, it is necessary to understand that biometrics is considered as an effective tool to fight the terrorism (Black, 2008).

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Since 9/11, terrorism has become a serious threat to the US. It is described as issue number one for the security and defense organization. The US Army is not an exception. Scholars proved that if biometrics was implemented at the airports earlier, the tragedy could have been prevented. The biometric identification system is a powerful means to identify terrorists and criminals in time. However, it is important for the system to adhere to the laws and norms that protect the individual privacy of the Americans (Black, 2008). Therefore, it is essential for the biometrics program to correspond to the Constitutional Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments (Black, 2008). At the same time, the Privacy and the Patriot Acts need to be considered when dealing with the rights of the US citizens (Black, 2008).

In fact, there also are some challenges that are associated with biometrics implementation. The majority of them are associated with human dignity, fundamental rights, and equality (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). These aspects mainly relate to the consequent ethical and legal concerns. Even though military men are strictly disposed to the order, the existing concerns at the above-mentioned levels have a strongly negative impact on the people’s devotion, as they raise various concerns and weaken a positive disposition and relationships in a team.

The major ethical concerns are associated with the fact that biometrics provides a full surveillance of people, literally depriving them of privacy and confidentiality (Hoyt, 2013). All the movements and acts become recorded and can be traced by the government, which has a total control over people with the help of the biometrics base. The automated methods of verifying the identity are really very convenient and effective for the Army and other agencies, but a number of problems appear, as the questions, related to individual and collective rights, appear. Protection of personal data, confidentiality of information, personal liberty, as well as the connection between an individual and society are the points that need to be considered in details (Mordini & Petrini, 2007).

Therefore, primarily these issues raise major problematic questions, associated with biometrics. A more detailed representation of the above-mentioned concerns was made in RAND report of 2001 (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). There were defined such points, related to the informational privacy, as function creep, tracking, and wrong motives of the personal data usage. Function creep implies violation of privacy and usage of the technology in a way that is different from the one that was initially intended. Tracking and data misuse are closely interconnected with function creep. The brightest examples of how such points can violate human constitutional rights include monitoring individual’s actions without his or her consent, becoming omnipresent, and even stealing one’s identity (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). These actions can violate not only morality but also law, so they are absolutely unacceptable.

In addition to this, RAND report mentioned that biometrics leads to such risks as ethical deviations as well as physical and moral harm, caused by the possible unhygienic conditions of the devices storage or accompanied by the abuse of the minorities (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). OECD report supports the common idea and explains that biometric systems raise privacy issues, because usage of one feature of a person leads to the elimination of the traditional space between the physical self and the identity.

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Therefore, it becomes much more difficult to change the identity (in case of the witness protection program, for instance). The next important point, which raises serious concerns, is that an improper usage of any private information is a serious threat to people’s trust to the organization or even to the entire government (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). Finally, the religious objection to biometrics bases on the Revelation interpretation and makes many Christian people believe that biometrics is Evil (Mordini & Petrini, 2007).

Being quite multifaceted, ethical concerns must be considered from several perspectives. Two of them, including religious fundamentalism and utilitarianism, are analyzed in the current essay to ensure a deeper understanding of the existing concerns and ways to their solution. Moral judgments of people are strongly interconnected with their conviction. For this reason, it is necessary to understand that religious fundamentalism is usually strongly rooted in human minds, so it predetermines the attitude to many things in the environment. As a result, a person can hardly be convinced of a different viewpoint. According to the religious fundamentalism, ethical absolutism requires to follow moral and religious norms in any possible case (Seaquist, 2012).

Antonenko, Willer, & Keltner (2013) proved that religious fundamentalism has a strong influence on the thought processing of people. Hence, the assumption that the Christian fundamentalist can be tolerant to the issues that deny his worldview is quite erroneous. As for the attitude towards biometrics, the fundamentalists’ worldview bases on the belief that it is of the evil origin and cannot bring anything good to people, while it is not accepted by God. Therefore, biometrics becomes a serious threat to human morality due to the privacy violation and inappropriate unbiblical influence on people. Moral and religious principles mainly make people view the technologically saved private information about people as a real violation of the rights (Antonenko et al., 2013). At the same time, Williamson and Hood (2014) claim that the common attitude to people is viewed as a way to discrimination and inequality. A detailed analysis of the religious objections was provided by Black (2008), who represented the idea, that many people fear a possibility that biometrics is the “Mark of the Beast”.

Fundamentalist Christian groups mostly support such view. In addition to that, there exists an idea that the book of Revelation predicted that the biometric identification will be developed and called it “a mark on… hand or … forehead” (Black, 2008, p. 32). However, both cases consider such marks to be some reflection of the evil force that oppresses Christians.

Consequently, from the perspective of the religious fundamentalism, the biometrics implementation cannot be viewed as a positive step. Instead, they believe that it will be hardly accepted and that no religious interpretation is likely to support the development of the biometric system.

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The utilitarian views are different and they consider outcomes. Therefore, the aim to fight terrorism is the ultimate good for people as well as the aim to regulate the data properly, and to make the organization functioning more effective (Seaquist, 2012). Balasubramanian (2013) offers scientific evidence of how good results from the actions can be counted in contrast to the alternatives. Both the numerical data and theoretical analysis show that weighted utilitarianism is an appropriate way to combine concerns and benefits for the society and to separate individuals in order to introduce the most productive means for the best possible outcomes (Balasubramanian, 2013).

At the same time, the arguments of Arrigo (2004) prove that the dynamics of the military institutions are important to ensure a proper safety level as well as to curtail the terrorism. In such a way, basing on the weighed evidences, which can be observed from the statistics of the department or organization achievements, the utilitarian views on biometrics become positive and prove the prevalence of the general advantages of the technologies over the possible disadvantages. A good example of how the general good can prevail over the general bad was provided by Arrigo (2004), who explained that conducting interrogations of terrorists, using tortures, contradicts any ethical and moral norms. However, it can be accepted in a civilized society, because otherwise there is a risk of loosing thousands of innocent people in case of refusing to fight the terrorism. In fact, the strongest counterargument in such case is that failure to get the information from the terrorist would lead to the destruction of the community. A similar counterargument can be used for biometrics implementation. As for the biometrics usage in the army department, the focus on the purposeful data application for the effective work of the Army must be chosen as the central argument to defend the position.

The ethical perspective that will be the best in the current case of biometrics implementation is obviously the utilitarian one. It will ensure the best outcomes for business and for each separate person. The focus on the global advantages of the technology can become quite convincing even for those, who could have considered the biometrics technologies as inappropriate. A more global view on the problem in this case becomes a means to focus on the advantages of the technology instead of its disadvantages. Moreover, it allows to focus on the positive influence of the technologies on the critical security issues of the US. However, strong religious beliefs about the evil, which is produced by biometrics, can hardly be suppressed easily. Still, the number of military men with strong religious beliefs is quite low and they were absent in the department that is discussed in this case.
For the background information, it is necessary to understand that the Army’s use of biometrics leads to the concerns in three major legal areas. Among them, one should point out statutory and administrative legal issues, constitutional law, and international law (Woodward, 2001).

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The Privacy Act of 1974 and its regulation of collecting, maintaining, applying, and disseminating the personal information of people by numerous federal government agencies predetermined the first issue (Woodward, 2001). Accordingly, this Act must be investigated in more details. According to the same act, privacy and freedom of people should not become disputable ethically or legally (Woodward, 2001). Legal issues that must be addressed include the administrative, constitutional, and international law as well as crimes and security regulations. The last point needs attention, when it comes to terrorism and finding the best means to regulate the related problems. That is why criminal actions will be addressed to estimate the necessity of the private data disclosure (Seaquist, 2012). Usage of biometrics in the US Army is strongly associated with the constitutional rights of the individuals. In particular, the informational and physical privacy needs to be considered, because it is ensured by the Bill of Rights, but it becomes contradictive due to such innovations (Woodward, 2001).

Moreover, the religious freedom, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment, is also under a threat as the majority of the religious people deny strict surveillance, referring to the biblical writings (Woodward, 2001). From the statutory and administrative perspectives, it is necessary to control the Privacy Act demands. In particular, data safeguarding is the responsibility of the administrative agencies (Woodward, 2001). The constitutional rights of the military men are also tightly interconnected with the biometrics implications. Hence, Woodward (2001) explains that UCMJ deserves additional attention. Finally, the inernational law is associated with EU data protection directives (Woodward, 2001).

The recommendation to reduce liability is mostly associated with supporting a peculiar ethical climate and motivating employees to trust the organization, they are dedicated to. Moreover, the essential principle is to make military men even more devoted and to ensure the importance of biometrics together with confidentiality of data. The recommendations to the Army biometrics implementations must consider both legal and ethical concerns.

Therefore, several principles can be applied:

First, it is necessary to emphasize the purpose of the biometrics implementation. Purposeful usage will mainly let the employees realize the aims they follow, will use the strengths of the technologies, and will let the authorities avoid the misusage of the data as well as prevent various possible violations (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). If the purpose and the area of usage will be clearly defined no or minimal amount of unclear issues will appear. At the same time, it will be easier to find a solution for any doubtful issue if the purpose is clear. The success of this principle depends on the determination of the strict aim of data collection as well as on the limited areas for its further usage. For instance, the usage of biometric technologies in the army for the control purposes cannot be applied to evaluate the emotional state of the workers. Hence, the wrong directed use of the systems must be completely avoided (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). Strict and clear statute and demands to each worker, together with a recording of the authority’s actions and awareness of charges are the measures that can help.

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The second useful principle that must help to ensure the adequate usage of the biometrics is a respect for proportionality. It means that biometrical data can be used only in case of its adequacy and relevancy (Mordini & Petrini, 2007). Such principle must ensure the understanding of the risk that an excessive amount data can be obtained, which can prevent from getting only the relevant information. Hence, the data that is not related to authentication of the individual should remain untouched regardless of the fact that it could be obtained, too. In case some unnecessary data is anyway obtained, for instance, through pictures, it must be rapidly destroyed without the possibility of restoration (Mordini & Petrini, 2007).

The third but not less important suggestion is to make the retrieval and management of the biometric information meet the constitutional standards. According to the Fourth Amendment, people have to feel secure and never face any unreasonable chases or seizures (Black, 2008). Hence, the applied biometrics has to be under strict control. According to the Fifth Amendment, one can be compelled to something or jeopardized only due to the process of law (Black, 2008). Therefore, biometrics usage can be applied to people only with a clear explanation that the usage of the data is strongly limited or based on the grounded legal suspicion in crime. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, any person must be equally protected by law and be entitled to the right for liberty (Black, 2008).

Therefore, biometrical data must be used very accurately to protect all citizens without any discrimination.
Overall, numerous positive experiences represent the biometric system as a useful one, because it makes the army work more effective. People must be sure that the enhanced technology clearly aims to improve the work, save time, and support the security, rather than reveal any secrets or deprive people of the privacy rights.

There is a real debate, related to whether the biometric technologies are positive or negative for the society in general and for the work of the army in particular. Technology usually brings numerous advantages. As a precise and quick method of the identity verification, biometrics is a great system to ensure the effective work of all military and defense departments. There are numerous experiences, which prove that such a system works very efficiently. At the same time, the struggle against terrorists can become more efficient. However, the controversy of biometrics is its contradistinction to some ethical, religious, and legal issues.

The major concerns are associated with the perception of the biometrics as the means to violate the privacy, as a potential weapon of strong surveillance over people, as date misusage etc. When considering the situation from the perspective of religious fundamentalism and utilitarianism, one can see that the latter point of view is more appropriate to the biometrics interpretation, as it is an advantageous method to gather and manage the data. Such outlook ensures the best outcomes for the army in general and for each separate employee in particular. A more global perspective on this issue lets one realize the advantages of the technology and its crucial positive influence on the most critical areas of the state security.

At the same time, some experts argue that biometric technology has a number of limitations, associated with the legal aspects, prescribed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Moreover, administrative legal issues, constitutional law, and international law issues are important to consider and need to be strictly adhered in order to put emphasis on the advantages of the technologies. Overall, the biometrics technologies in the US Army ensure quick and precise verification of the identity as well as accelerate the reaction to some accidents. However, it is important to ensure the purposefulness, proportionality, and adherence to constitutional standards. Mainly it must be shown that the data is used according to the aims of its initial collection, that only adequate and relevant information is applied, and that neither privacy nor confidentiality is violated.