New 24 Hour Fitness ID system causes stir

A new biometrics device being installed by a gym may be a cool piece of technology or an invasion of our privacy.

August 13, 2010 7:06:46 PM PDT
It's like something out of Mission Impossible. But is a new biometrics device being installed by a fitness gym really a cool piece of technology, or an invasion of our privacy?

At least in one gym, gone are the days you'll need a membership card to get in. 24 Hour Fitness now requires its members to scan their fingerprints before entering.

At 24 Hour Fitness, it's your fingers that will do the talking. Members type in their ID code, scan their fingers on the MorphoTrak and a cardless entry device approves their admittance.

24 Hour Fitness says its green, no cards needed, as well as convenient and secure.

"Membership cards can be lost, they can be stolen. What members that can be assured with, with the cardless entry system, only they are using their membership and only other 24 Hour Fitness members are using their club," 24 Hours Fitness Division President Dan Benning said.

The system just rolled out in the Bay Area and will be in place at all 24 Hour Fitness clubs nationwide by the end of the year.

But it has some members concerned.

"They don't need my thumb print, I mean it's not the Pentagon or Lawrence Livermore Lab. It's a gym," Cynthia Cox from San Francisco said.

Cox says she's been a victim of identity theft twice and scanning her finger makes her feel vulnerable.

"Because I don't trust that it won't get hacked. And then it's a lot easier to change your credit card number than to change your thumb print," she said.

But other members say the convenience makes it all worth it.

"It saves you a lot of time from carrying your card around and stuff. You just put your finger up there and it works really good," Barry Apodaca from Dublin said.

Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation simply calls this a bad idea.

"I think it's a bad exchange for convenience. Your finger print is a very sensitive piece of your identity. It's not something you can replace if it's compromised," she said.

24 Hour Fitness says no fingerprints will be stored in its system. When your finger presses down on the device, the MorphoTrak will measure the distance between distinct points.

What gets stored, they say, will be a series of numbers. the club says there virtually is no chance of identity theft.

"Furthermore that information, if it were to get out, you couldn't do anything with it. It's literally a number. It's not an image. We don't keep images," Benning said.

Any other notion he says is a creation of Hollywood.

But Deborah Pierce of Privacy Activism says a Japanese mathematician has already proven biometric systems can be fooled using $10 worth of common materials.

"You could spoof somebody's fingerprint and fool finger print readers about 80 percent of the time very reliably," she said.

24 Hour fitness says members who don't feel comfortable giving their fingerprints can enter the gym using two forms of identification, including their driver's license.


Load Comments