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Biometrics Institute discusses importance of informed consent and purpose

Categories Biometrics News  |  Surveillance

The Biometric Institute has responded to an article by Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleging the widespread collection of biometric data with a low degree of transparency, potentially for surveillance purposes, under the mandate of a health care program.

The HRW article suggested that the “Physicals for All” program and attempts to gather data from residents between ages 12 and 65 in the Xinjiang region were not carried out with informed consent, and could be “a gross violation of international human rights norms.”

The Biometrics Institute post refers to the confusion and conflicting reports over the degree of information shared with individuals whose biometric data was collected. It also confirms that the allegations reported by HRW amount to human rights violations, but says that the difference between responsible biometric data collection and abuse can be determined by asking a series of questions.

The questions relate to whether data was obtained for a specific and limited purpose, whether is was obtained in accordance with established rules, what individuals were told about the purpose of the data collection and limits on its use, the details of the data’s storage, consent, and the necessity of the data collection.

“The critical issue is ‘informed consent’ and a clear ‘message about the purposes to which the collected biometric will be put,’” the post authors write. “If it is for stated health purposes, then that should be it. To then use it for social rewards or privileges or to identify critics of a regime or organisation would be a significant change of purpose which the Biometrics Institute does not support in its Privacy Guidelines.”

HRW will join the Biometrics Institute for its U.S. conference, March 20-21, 2018.

The Biometrics Institute and the UN Migration Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year to work together to promote responsible use of biometrics.

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