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Published: Monday, 8/11/2014


Dog catcher

Biometric technology — which can read a human’s unique physical and behavioral traits — helps consumers maintain personal security. Many people activate smart phones by using fingerprint or iris-recognition software, reducing the risk of identity fraud and eliminating the need for password memorization.

Yet the advent of biometrics has run into opposition by privacy advocates, who consider the technology intrusive. Others condemn its potential to incite aggressive burglary, citing a case in which teenagers kidnapped a Malaysian man whose luxury car would start only by scanning the fingerprint of its owner.

But a new use of biometrics would muzzle even the most biting critics: An online application relies on facial-recognition technology to help owners find lost dogs. The app, called Finding Rover, allows animal shelters to submit photos of their guests to an online database. Each image is run through a biometric software program that measures facial markers distinctive to each dog, including the size of the eyes and position of the snout.

Distraught owners submit snapshots of their missing companions, whose markers are compared to those of dogs rescued by shelters registered with Finding Rover. Once a match is struck, a happy reunion is an email away.

For now, the app is available only to residents of San Diego County in California. But Finding Rover seeks to expand beyond state and national borders.

Biometrics, like any other technology, can be used maliciously. But they also can advance causes as noble and universal as reuniting humans with their best friends.

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