FBI Considers Using Iris Scanning Program

September 21, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. pilot / ˈpaɪ lət / (adj.) – a trial designed to test if a larger program should push through
Example: They did the pilot study to see if the new system will work.

2. potent / ˈpoʊt nt / (adj.) – very effective or useful
Example: The drug was very potent against the flu.

3. attribute / ˈæ trəˌbyut / (n.) – a quality or characteristic of a person
Example: She has very distinct physical attributes.

4. look into / ˈlʊkˈɪn tə (phrasal v.) – to study or investigate something
Example: The police are looking into the incident.

5. safeguard / ˈseɪfˌgɑrd / (n.) – something that ensures the protection or safety of something
Example: The company has introduced new safeguards against identity fraud.


Read the text below.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has started a pilot program that aims to use iris scans for identification.

The iris is the colored part in the center of the eye. According to Patrick Grother, a computer scientist who develops iris scanning software, irises are a potent biometric, or a unique physical attribute, that can be used to identify a person. This is because a person’s iris pattern is unique and permanent. Aside from that, processing iris patterns can be done very quickly, taking less than a second to complete.

Another benefit of iris scanning is its capacity to identify people at a distance. Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania are developing an iris scanner that can be used at a distance of up to 40 feet. The scanner can also work in various lighting conditions, making it an efficient identification tool.

The FBI is looking into replacing fingerprinting with iris scanning due to its huge potential. Under the new initiative called the FBI Iris Pilot, law enforcement officials from California, Texas, and Missouri have started collecting the iris patterns of arrested individuals along with their personal information. The project was launched in September 2013.

FBI project manager Nick Megna says that the technology can address difficulties in prison breaks or mistaken identities. It will also eliminate the need for close contact, which is necessary for fingerprinting.

The FBI’s iris scan database currently contains the scans of more than 400,000 people arrested in the above-mentioned states. While the tool may be efficient, several critics believe that proper safeguards for people’s privacy should be in place before it is launched fully.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Considering its benefits, would you agree to have iris scanning used in your country?
·         How would you feel if your biometrics were stored in a database?

Discussion B

·         In what situations can a powerful biometric device, like an iris scanner, be useful?
·         On the other hand, in what situations can it be dangerous?

September 21, 2016