Why is it important to have opensource drivers and/or open documentation for fingerprint scanners?
Fingerprint scanners (and other biometric secutiry devices) have a number of advantages over other identification systems:
(1) You can't guess a fingerprint pattern.
(2) You can't misplace your fingerprints.
(3) You can't forget your fingerprints.
*** Security ***
But the real problem with biometric security systems is the extent of the damage when somebody does manage to steal the identity information. You can always get a new card or change your password, but if somebody steals your fingerprints, you're pretty much out of luck for the rest of your life. You wouldn't be able to use your prints as a form of identification until you were absolutely sure all copies had been destroyed. Just imagine: a malicious person who wants to gain access, inconspicuously intercepts a fingerprint from someone who is granted access.
Are you sure what your fingerprint driver and other involved software do behind the scene? Trust is good, but after Snowden, control is better. Can a person rely on proprietary software? We don't think so.
Free software presupposes that users have the four essential freedoms:
(1) The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
(2) The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
(3) The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
(4) The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
It also means that the program does not do you what you do not want it to do. Instead of having to trust the supplier of the software, you can check that the software works as advertised and does not contain spyware. Access to the source code is a precondition for this freedom.
*** Support ***
Fingerprint scanners are widely used in laptops, mobile devices, in police stations, high-security buildings. Unfortunately, support of fingerprint devices is limited to just one platform. For example, there's no support for Validity Sensors fingerprint scanners under GNU/Linux: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/libfprint/+bug/1101647.
Usually there's no official support for a lot of platforms (GNU/Linux, MacOS, older versions of MS Windows, and so on), and there's no open documentation. We understand that companies don't want to share their commercial secrets, but releasing opensource driver or open documentation (which can be used to write such a driver) will benefit to their sales -- because more your hardware supported, more customers there will be. Let secure and open biometric technologies spread computing world.
*** Companies ***
(List is not complete.)
APC, http://www.apc.com, email@example.com
Bayometric, http://www.bayometric.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
BioLink, http://www.biolink.ru, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
DigitalPersona, http://www.digitalpersona.com, email@example.com
Fulcrum Biometrics, http://www.fulcrumbiometrics.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Futronic, http://www.futronic-tech.com, email@example.com
IDEX ASA, http://www.idex.no, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, knut@firstname.lastname@example.org
Identification International, http://www.idintl.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
M2SYS, http://www.m2sys.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
MorphoTrust, http://www.morphotrust.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
SecuGen, http://secugen.com, email@example.com
Silex Technology, http://www.silexamerica.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Suprema, http://www.supremainc.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Validity Sensors, http://www.validityinc.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Zvetco Biometrics, http://www.zvetcobiometrics.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Picture by D. Sharon Pruitt