Iris scans could become part of a routine traffic stop, thanks to technology being developed by researchers at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University that can grab an image from a distance of 40 feet. The technology would allow police to take an image the second a driver glances into the rear-view mirror. “It’s no different than a camera taking a picture of you,” said Marios Savvides, a research professor at CMU’s computer engineering department and the director of the CyLab Biometrics Center. “You could be anywhere within a 6- to 12-meter radius and it will find you and zoom in and capture your iris.” The technology would be a major development for iris biometric scanners, which have been hampered for years by accuracy at long distances. But adoption also would create legal questions by relying on technology that’s similar to the local license plate databases that have been in use in Virginia, California and other municipalities. 

“It could be used surreptitiously,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is monitoring the development of the technology. “That could lead to the ability of law enforcement officers to collect a person’s biometric information without their knowledge.” The U.S. military has been using iris scan technology for more than a decade in the Middle East, in part to help determine who is authorized to enter military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers in combat zones often take a snapshot of an individual 6 inches from their face, at which point the data is uploaded to a wide-ranging database that includes everything from scar information and mug shot images to height and eye color data. FULL REPORT