Every once in a while you come across a story that
will make the hair on the back of your neck stand
on end as soon as you read the first couple of
paragraphs. Sadly, this is one of those stories.
Last week, business and technology journal
Fast Company reported that a U.S. company
named Global Rainmakers Inc. is embarking
on a grand techno-fascist project in Leon,
Mexico, where it will roll out iris-scanning
technology to create what it calls “the
most secure city in the world.”
When the million-plus residents of Leon go to
the bank, get on a bus or walk into a medical
clinic, their eyes will be scanned by machines
that can handle up to 50 people per minute in
motion, automatically entering the information
into a central database monitored by the
Jeff Carter, the CDO of GRI, is enthusiastic.
“In the future, whether it’s entering your home,
opening your car, entering your workspace,
getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having
your medical records pulled up, everything will
come off that unique key that is your iris,” he told
“Every person, place, and thing on this planet will
be connected (to the iris system) within the next
10 years,” he added.
To begin, GRI’s scanners are scheduled to be
installed in law enforcement facilities, security
check-points, police stations, and prisons.
The authorities in Leon are set to automatically
“enrol” convicted criminals, scanning their irises
and entering them into the
database for future use.
The next phase will see scanners placed in
mass transit, medical centres and banks with
the expectation that they will be used by everyone
else. The technology is meant to have both
governmental and commercial uses (for example,
personalized advertising or billboards that actively
track who looks at them), so if residents of Leon want a
glimpse into the future, they can rent Minority
Report DVDs. Carter seems undisturbed by all this.
“If you’ve been convicted of a crime, in essence,
this will act as a digital scarlet letter,” he said.
“If you’re a known shoplifter, for example, you
won’t be able to go into a store without being
flagged. Forothers, boarding a plane will be impossible.”
Law-abiding citizens will have the option to opt-in,
although Carter hopes that they will be incentivized
to do so by the government and by private companies.
“When you get masses of people opting-in, opting
out does not help,” he said.
“Opting out actually puts more of a flag on you than
just being part of the system. We believe everyone
Lest anyone think that Carter and his colleagues
are just misguided scientists who do not understand
the implications of what they are selling, the CEO of
Global Rainmakers Hector Hoyos dispels that myth
“September 11 had a huge impact on my life — it
made me move to New York and do what I’m doing
today,” he told the Hispanic Engineer & Information
Technology magazine in an interview just days before
GRI’s project in Leon was announced. “This is one thing
I’ve based my life’s work on: identifying the needle in the
haystack. I’ve been working to develop the technology,
product, and solutions to enable the identification of the
bad guys and hopefully rid the world of them. My
purpose is to be able to weed out anyone who wants
to harm us or our way
Who is a criminal or a threat? What would “ridding
the world of them” entail? That’s up to the Mexican
authorities and the good people at GRI, for now.
But, if GRI and the authorities in Leon are successful,
then they will create the authoritarian’s wet dream, a
system that will track individuals from the moment
that they enter the public square and follow
and monitor them all day long, with Big Brother
looking for patterns and transgressions while
marketing companies assault the senses with
No matter what our politicians and newspaper
columnists say, our way of life or how we enjoy
our freedoms are not threatened by bad census
forms, boatfuls of Tamil refugees, or by an Islamic
cultural centre within a few blocks of the former
World Trade Center in New York.
Instead, the meaningful threats come from
the nexus of paranoia and centralized control,
and truly Orwellian technologies, always put
in place in the name of the public good.