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IBIA and Open Technology Institute respond to commercial biometrics limitations of proposed privacy act

IBIA and Open Technology Institute respond to commercial biometrics limitations of proposed privacy act

International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) Executive Director Tovah LaDier is not thrilled with the National Biometric Information Privacy Act (NBIPA) recently introduced by U.S. Senators Merkley and Sanders, but the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at think tank New America has endorsed the proposal.

NBIPA applies to private sector uses of biometrics, requiring opt-in consent, data minimization and retention policies, and a private right of action for individual enforcement actions, like Illinois’ similarly-named legislation.

In response to a query from Biometric Update, LaDier wrote in an email that the rules proposed in the bill are onerous and impractical, and that in many cases informed consent with some record indicating the consent is sufficient to protect user rights. Some of the definitions in the legislation are unclear or do not make sense, according to LaDier.

She also points out that a private right of action is permitted without the common tort law requirement of having to show harm, and there is no provision to prevent frivolous lawsuits.

OTI argues that biometric information is the most sensitive type of data possible, and that its increasing commercial use therefore raises privacy concerns. Biometrics are also being developed and deployed for COVID-19 spread prevention, but are not subject to either a comprehensive federal data privacy law, or one specific to the pandemic. The organization urges Congress to take up the legislation immediately.

“Now more than ever, we need to establish clear limitations on when and how private companies collect and use biometric data,” comments Open Technology Institute Senior Policy Council Lauren Sarkesian. “As facial recognition becomes more prevalent in commercial spaces, private companies devise and deploy pandemic response tools, and some companies even monetize our sensitive biometric data, safeguards are badly needed. Especially in the absence of a comprehensive data privacy law, the National Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2020 would provide crucial protections. We thank Senators Merkley and Sanders for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with them on this important effort.”

With less than three months to the next federal election in the U.S., and control of the House and Senate divided, the Act faces a steep uphill path to enactment.

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