This week I was in Brazil meeting with some of our partners, customers and prospects there. When we went to one government affiliated agency, their physical security system was all biometric based. In order to enter the building, open various doors, etc. you needed to authenticate using your finger print. Other parts of the building required retinal scan for entry. Using biometrics by itself is not surprising. What was a surprise to me was that visitors also had to use the system.

While we were registering to enter the building, I wondered about how this data is stored and secured. In their database they have my photo, some ID information and the finger prints from both my index fingers. If that type of information got in the wrong hands, it would cause all sorts of problems. While I was hesitant to go through the process, refusing to go ahead with the visit would have had devasting effects on the relationship with the agency and our partner there.

As in all regions, relationships are highly valued. Based on what I saw, it seemed to me that in Brazil there is a heightened sensitivity to behavior that is factored in to how the relationship is viewed. Even how you are greeted changes based on the building of the relationship - especially between men. On the first encounter you get a handshake. Once you get to know the person and a level of mutual respect is earned, the handshake is accompanied by holding the other person's forearm with your other hand at the same time. Next phase is exchanging a half-hug of sorts while shaking hands. For friends, a full on hug is the norm.

After spending a few days with folks there, I could easily have gone from half-hug back to formal handshake by refusing to be digitized. I learned while we were in the agency that the partner that brought us in for that visit actually had sold and installed the system I was worried about. If I had refused, it would have implied that I didn't trust them or their expertise in front of a major customer of theirs. That would have erased any relationship building that had gone on to that point.

Other than me not understanding some of the prompts since they were in Portugese, the system worked perfectly.

As of this week, part of my identity is on a hard drive in Brazil. I hope that's where it stays.