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Patchwork legislation for biometrics gets patchier

Patchwork legislation for biometrics gets patchier

The landscape for biometrics regulation in the United States continues to grow more fragmented as recent efforts in Missouri and Rhode Island illustrate.

A month into the new year, the Rhode Island state house has three bills directly or indirectly touching on biometrics collection.

The focus chiefly is on House Bill 7222, which would prohibit any biometric recognition systems incorporated into video lottery terminals or online betting apps. As well, it would prohibit the use of other personal history such as betting history. Nor could AI be used to encourage “increased play” by a gambler.

Should it become law, legislators will no doubt wrap themselves in consumer-privacy banners. But as it has been noted elsewhere, the state’s dominant gambling services firm, International Game Technology, does not use AI or biometrics, while its competitors Everi and Scientific Games do.

House Bill 7230 aims to create rules for the insurance industry regarding its use of external consumer data and information sources. The bill defines those sources and data conventionally — buying habits, occupation, etc. — but leaves it up to the state to define the terms more broadly.

And House Bill 7223 proposes creating a permanent commission to monitor the state’s use of AI. Definitions of systems are broad (machine learning, for example), but grouped under the heading automated decision systems.

Facial recognition and other biometrics systems would fall in this category. The legislation would apply to all state operations, including law enforcement.

Things are fuzzier in the Missouri state house, where a representative alleges that Apple, Google, Amazon and other consumer voice recognition products are wholesale recording conversations of users.

Major digital assistants record what is said to a device, not conversations occurring around it, and at least some vendors require the consumer to opt in to having commands recorded.

Rep. Doug Clemens says he also is concerned that biometric data is collected. Clemens told the St. Louis Record that today, people do not own their biometric data, another statement that requires qualifications.

It is not clear what he would like to see done. Clemens says he has been working on his bill for months and is finalizing the language.

If there is a scenario more troubling than a patchwork of biometrics laws for business, government and privacy advocates, it would probably be a wave of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out laws.

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