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Three visions for biometrics regulation, all look iffy

Three visions for biometrics regulation, all look iffy

A new assessment of the White House’s view of AI governance, particularly compared to that of the European Union, is mixed.

Another biometrics legislation report, from Australia, illustrates how progress on biometrics governance can never be taken for granted no matter the strategy employed.

The United States has many pots on the stove adding up to a pro-regulation stance roughly on par with the EU, according to a report by public policy think tank the Brookings Institution.

For privacy advocates and biometric surveillance skeptics, this is a welcome reversal after the pointedly hands-off perspective of the previous administration.

Counterintuitively, the U.S. approach (which is not to say there is a strategy) could bear fruit “in many practical areas of AI regulation” ahead of the EU, according to the report’s authors.

Departmental efforts, such as those at the Food and Drug Administration (see its medical device action plan) and Transportation Department (see its driverless car plan) generally have been able to achieve more results precisely because they have narrower impacts than a coherent government-wide strategy.

The EU has tended to take bigger bites of the privacy-biometrics apple, achieving more policy coherence and breadth at a slower pace toward regulatory actions.

The best example of that so far is the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which even after the two-year campaign for passage, according to Brookings, did not result in violation penalties until two years after implementation.

On the EU’s horizon is the draft Artificial Intelligence Act, which like the GDPR will be a massive piece of legislation, should it pass.

In Australia, an update to the nation’s Identity-Matching Services Bill — it still is not a law after four years of non-transparency, according to an analysis by InnovationAus.

The bill was intended to regulate the collection of driving license photos for a national database that the government for facial recognition systems.

A joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security took one look at the bill in 2018 and savaged it as unworkable. Amendments were written and sent to the committee in 2020, where it seems to have fallen into a black hole.

Adding to the confusion, the government is looking for a company to create face biometrics systems and to host the driving license facial recognition service, something that some have said cannot be done until the amended bill becomes law.

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