The Hamilton Spectator
Friday, May 16, 1997
page C14

Tories' fingerprint plan OK by this firm

Mytec developing new system

by Valerie Lawton

TORONTO (CP) -- Ontario Premier Mike Harris's recent musings about making electronic thumb prints of everyone in the province is drawing cheers from the people at Mytec Technologies.

The Toronto company has spent the last four years developing a fingerprint-based identification and security system.

Mytec chairman George Tomko was delighted to hear Harris talking about using electronic fingerprints to fight fraud in government programs like welfare and medicare.

"What it means for us is that after all the efforts we've put in ... we see there possibly is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

Mytec has an encryption system based on biometrics - the science of applying statistical methods to biology.

It's already being tested by one of Canada's biggest banks, the RCMP, and at the Louvre art gallery in Paris. Myrec has also signed a development agreement with U.S. giant Compaq Computer Corp.

Tomko sees an almost endless list of possible applications.

Fingerprints could, for example, help fight credit card fraud by verifying shoppers' identities at the checkout. Your finger would be scanned along with your card to make sure the two match.

The pattern on your fingertip can also be used to scramble information sent over computer and phone lines.

Tomko imagines a trip to Zurich this way:

You book and pay for the airline ticket by sliding your finger on a keyboard scanner on your home computer. Your credit card number and personal information are encrypted and can only be unscrambled by the airline at he other end.

Once you arrive at the airport, a kiosk spits out a flight card after you put a finger on the scanner.

The system also makes sure you're the right person who goes through customs and gets on the plane and that you leave the Zurich airport with the right bags.

You've now got a person's unique finger pattern making life extremely easy and simple", Tomko says.

"That is the future we're heading towards."

But plans for fingerprint ID cards - something Metropolitan toronto is considering for welfare recipients - have raised eyebrows and concerns about personal privacy.

Ontario's privacy commissioner, for one, has warned of governments "mesmerized by technology". He said the premier's proposal could pose a serious threat to confidentiality.

But Tomko said Mytec's technology actually enhances privacy.

Instead of storing a fingerprint, a person's finger pattern is used to scramble a number. It's that encrypted number that's stored on a card and there's no central database of fingerprints.

"No one can access any of your information without your consent - your consent is presenting your live finger pattern", says Tomko. "You can't get any better than that".

Copyright © 1997 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.