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Give your grocery store the finger.

(Posted by Laurence Simon as part of the Amish Tech Support Occupation of A Small Victory during the holidays)

Here's something that everyone can agree with during the holiday season as we stand in long lines and wait for that jerk with the full shopping cart at the shelf-check to get done: giving your grocery store the finger:

Kroger Co., the largest U.S. supermarket chain, is offering some customers just that opportunity, testing finger imaging as a method of payment in three of its Texas stores.

A machine scans the index finger, matching the customer's unique fingerprint with the individual's account.

The company avoids the term "fingerprinting" because of its law enforcement connotation -- the same reason the technology is applied to the index finger, rather than the thumb.

Customers can register for the voluntary program by presenting a drivers license, an index finger and a method of payment -- either credit card, debit card or electronic check.

"Early indications are that it's being well received by the customer, the new technology is performing well, and it is saving both time and money," said Gary Huddleston, manager of consumer affairs for Kroger's Southwest division.

The company has been testing finger imaging in the Texas towns of Bryan and College Station for about nine months. About 10,000 customers are currently participating.

If I'm not mistaken, either some Aggies or a Rice professor demonstrated how to defeat their fingerprint security with a simple gelatin-based fingerprint overlay or prosthesis finger. It was completely surreptitious, and only needed a good fingerprint to generate.

Sure, it's still easier to clone a credit card number or credit rating identity, and the security and relative difficulty of faking a biometric is inherently more secure. However, biometrics have a huge hurdle to get over with Big Brother-like fears. Heck, that's inflated by the horribly science-ignorant press, just like ignorance over how truly difficult it is to work up a fake finger or any other method of "hacking" a biometric.

It's sort of like airline security, really. People assume credit cards are safe, the appearances of security make people feel better, and the truth is that all the credit card companies do is make up bogus commercials with red-line safes and walls and bear traps around their easily-poached numbers. Where airline security failures resulted in thousands of deaths last year, credit security failures mess with millions of futures.

Instead of preventing the crimes, the credit card companies "aggressively" pursue cased after the fact only when they're a bit curious, but usually when it's after the fact and the damage has been done. Then there's the hassle of discovering and disputing and disproving each charge to the credit card company, and then the ever-muleheaded credit reporting agencies.

Better to prevent such misuse entirely, and to find a method to prove that you is really you.


By "Rice professor", do you mean a japanese scientist?