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BrainWave ID System

Perhaps the ultimate in anti-identity-theft
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(+1, -4)
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This Idea may not really belong in this Category, because it is not intended to be limited to accessing computers.

Identity theft is a serious problem. As long as there is external information about you, like a Social Security Number, that some other person can claim is associated with himself or herself, then the opportunity exists for that other person to pretend to be you long enough to rob you, one way or another.

Biometric systems are designed to reduce such imitation by recognizing persons by their unique biological traits. Everyone has different fingerprints, or retinal patterns, or DNA, for example. However, the weakness here is that biological traits of humans are removable. The criminal who hacks off your hand so it can be used in a palmprint scanner is simply exploiting that fact.

So, how about a BrainWave ID System? There is no doubt such patterns are different for each person, and modern sensors are advanced enough that they can access brainwave information from various point-contacts with the surface of the head (non-invasive). Like putting your face into a special opening for a retina scan, here you would put your head into a kind of helmet, the interior surface of which is covered with sensors. Accurate placement of the head is not so important if the sensors are numerous enough so that the desired scalp locations are always covered. (Note your head doesn't have to be vertical; you can stick your head sideways out a car window at a bank drive-thru, into an appropriately oriented helmet, and it can still work.)

Computers, of course, are needed to quickly gather and process the information from the sensors. When for the very first time your brainwaves are analyzed, you are required to think of something as a password. It can be anything, an image, a musical snippit, a famous quotation, anything. YOU NEVER TELL ANYONE WHAT IT IS. But whatever it is, your brainwaves will be affected by thinking about it, in a manner that the computer can be trained to identify quickly.

Some extra brainwave records are also made. When you are "feeling down" or are worried, or are exceptionally euphoric, or are feeling pressed for time ---those things all will affect your brainwave scans, and need to be recognized. I'm not quite sure how these states of mind need to be triggered during the intial brainwave scans, but obviously if you need to go to the bank and are in a hurry to get to work, It Would Be A Good Thing if the bank's BrainWave ID System correctly identified you, despite that state of mind, to let you make a withdrawal.

This system perhaps should be supplemented with a way to enter a CLAIM regarding who you are. That way, if you claim to be John Doe, the system only need try to match the brainwaves it scans with the records for John Doe, instead of trying to find a match in the entire database. The savings in time would probably be worth the occasional user error in entering the claim.

Note you have to be alive and awake for your brain waves to be properly matched against the database. You certainly cannot be in terror of your life, threatened by a criminal, for it to work. For additional security, additional scans might be made while you are thinking "HELP!", so that those special brainwaves can be recoginzed as a silent request for law enforcement to be summoned to the site where someone is attempting to coerce you.

Vernon, Mar 15 2010


       danged Vulcan phishers
FlyingToaster, Mar 15 2010

       Can you clarify what you mean by "brainwave," and (related question) what you mean by "sensors?" It sounds like the answers are "EEG" and "scalp electrodes." Is that right?
mouseposture, Mar 15 2010

       So, the process of making a withdrawal from the cashpoint would involve covering your head with saline and carefully placing dozens of electrodes in just the right positions on your scalp?
Wrongfellow, Mar 16 2010

       [Wrongfellow] I think you're right. Even then, this won't work.
hippo, Mar 16 2010

       In The Age of Aquariums, everyone will be identified by what fish they keep
hippo, Mar 16 2010

       //There is no doubt such patterns are different for each person//   

       Is there? I strongly suspect that "brainwaves" are as variable from time to time in one person as they are between people. I doubt that you could reliably identify people by any form of EEG.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 16 2010

       If remote sensing ever reaches the point where this is practical, repeating a specific thought excersize would work as a pin, and should be unique enough to each user to provide a decent level of identification. Of course if we reach that level of remote sensing, it won't be that difficult to produce a spoof brain that you can use to play back the pattern of someone you read.
MechE, Mar 16 2010

       This idea is a "target rich environment" for critics. So I'll pick a criticism which I think is slightly more interesting than others I'm tempted to make:
To wit: two inconsistent ideas are muddled together here.

       First is the idea that a person's brainwaves (still waiting to hear if brainwaves=EEG) are distinctive enough to be used as a form of ID.
Second is the idea of using mental imagery as a password.

       If a person's brainwaves are distinctive in themselves, why require a unique, secret mental image? Requiring a *standard* mental image, the same for everybody, might be useful, but why a secret one?   

       A secret mental image is needed precisely in the case where everybody's brainwaves are the *same.* If thinking of the smell of burned plastic, followed by imagining hearing your sister's voice saying the word seven (gracias [normzone]) always gives the same reading on the brainwave machine, for all subjects, then it makes sense to use such things as "passwords."   

       (Also, the last paragraph is sounds suspiciously like a Panic PIN)   

       There's still a boatload of more technical objections we could all make, but what's the point, unless [Vernon] addresses the frustrating vagueness of this idea? And, honestly, at this point, why would he?
mouseposture, Mar 17 2010

       I'll admit that I thought the technology for detecting brain signals was advanced enough to not need specially prepared contact points. I submit the tech will improve in the future, to the point where this will become possible.   

       [mouseposture], the two parts of the idea that you call inconsistent are only inconsistent if you think that just one security step is necessary. Greater security almost always involves more than one step. In this case if someone tries to make a brainwave recording of you, under coersion, such that the recording could be played back into a bank helmet via some sort of dummy head or transmitter-skullcap, well, the fact that the one doing the coersion has no idea what the correct thought is, will allow you to think of something else, that would prevent robbery (and could lead to their arrest at the bank). After all, suppose that there are key similarities in the brainwave patterns of two people thinking the same thing? The bad guy would be able to figure out you were not thinking the correct thing, if the access code was always the same thought, for everyone.
Vernon, Mar 17 2010

       This is an interesting concept, to me. I would very much like to see you develop this further. Especially for the part where it presents such horrific opportunities for governmental invasions of privacy. Furthermore, I would posit that, if your asking me to shave off my hair so that you can access my thoughts, I may ask that you, in return cram that specially designed helmet up your...   

       In any case. Wouldn't the mapping of these cerebral "thought passwords" (assuming that the EEGs would be consistent, despite mood) for all of a bank's customers be prohibitively expensive, both in time and money?
BakedRiemannZeta, Mar 17 2010

       I think something along the lines of a very highly tuned FMRI would further your cause than an EEG, however, given that there are a fuck-ton of associations in the brain (which are constantly evolving); Your pasword would be constantly changing.   

       If your //brain waves// were deciphered to such a degree of accuracy as to make them so specific to a particular string of thoughts, then merely associating that string of thoughts to a new terminal, such as the bank or a new grocery store, or even hearing an old favorite on the radio whilst providing identification would render your password unrecognizable.
MikeD, Mar 17 2010

       Functional MRI could be used for this with only a dash of scifi. I like the idea of thinking of a given thing for the password. I like this concept for a body hopping scifi like Kiln People or Avatar.
bungston, Mar 17 2010


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