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Biometrics Institute warns biometrics misuse could undermine public confidence

Biometrics Institute warns biometrics misuse could undermine public confidence

Following recent reports of facial recognition technology being misused, The Biometrics Institute is urging law enforcement agencies, border management agencies and governments to follow existing good practices to ensure responsible use of biometrics. If they fail to do so, the Institute warns that regulators may restrict usage and place an onus on the industry to ensure privacy protections.

Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology recently released a pair of reports about law enforcement use of biometric facial recognition, including the revelation that New York police have used sketches and digitally altered faces to generate matches.

International laws and standards for biometrics have yet to be developed, and the Biometrics Institute has taken on a role of issuing good practice guidelines to help organizations assess and implement responsible and ethical biometrics practices. Using biometrics without regard for these principles risks undermining public confidence in policing and counter-terrorism applications of the technology, according to the Institute’s announcement.

International member organizations of the Institute’s multi-stakeholder community have access to the recently updated Privacy Guidelines, Ethical Principles for Biometrics, Top Ten Vulnerability Questions, and the United Nations Compendium of Recommended Practices for the Responsible Use and Sharing of Biometrics in Counter-Terrorism. The latter guide is part of the Institute’s work with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT).

“Biometric technology has the potential to aid and accelerate identification when used carefully by trained humans, following proper processes and using the technology in the way it was originally intended,” Biometrics Institute CEO Isabelle Moeller says. “But it is vital that anyone using biometrics to identify individuals follows responsible and ethical guidelines to avoid people suffering from the consequences of the technology not being managed properly.”

“In cross-border terrorist investigations for example, strict protocols must be followed,” Moeller adds. “The contextual assessment of biometric ‘hits’ is critical. Governments need to liaise effectively and confidentially so that any potential suspect is interviewed discreetly and can potentially be eliminated from the enquiry immediately – without undue publicity. Tight controls must be exercised and human rights and the right to appeal must be respected, as stressed in the United Nations compendium.”

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2 Replies to “Biometrics Institute warns biometrics misuse could undermine public confidence”

  1. Go Isabelle! The responsibility falls on this industry and our governments to rein in “exuberant” performance claims. In the rush to establish sector dominance, the vendors are counting on entrenchment to overcome the (expected) fallout. While that short-term, irresponsible thinking will land deals, it has the very real potential to seriously weigh-down technical and cultural progress and hurt the entire industry.

  2. So much potential to do good.
    So much potential for misuse.

    The issue of police use of facial recognition technology is a very serious one that requires inclusive and open debate resulting in a policy framework that provides acceptable use guidance. The technology has significant potential to enhance public safety, but this must be balanced against the public’s very justifiable expectation of privacy and proportionality.

    Those who wish to use this technology to enhance public safety must be open and transparent about how, where and why they wish to do so, and they must do so within a pre-agreed framework. They must not make overly ambitious promises about what can be delivered. Every technology is fallible.

    Those who wish to preserve and promote privacy must ensure they do not misrepresent statistics, either through misunderstanding of how they should be presented, or intentionally through a desire to stifle open debate and achieve a predetermined political outcome.

    This problem is not intractable. It requires mutual trust arrived at through sensible, open, transparent and honest debate.

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