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Biometric data privacy is important for everyone but it’s big money in pro sports

Biometric data privacy is important for everyone but it’s big money in pro sports

Biometrics looks like they will be the next growth accelerant for college and professional sports in the United States.

Fantasy leagues were the last breath of new air and revenue for programs and teams, and the addition of biometrics could be even bigger. It will affect fantasy and real play, recruiting and gambling, and advertising: “This look at quarterback metabolism is brought to you by Johnson & Johnson.”

Trade publisher US Bets has reported that a new collective bargaining agreement for Major League Baseball directly addresses players’ biometrics data, for example.

The agreement, after a three-month lockout by team owners, prohibits the league from selling the biometric and medical information of players. That data is going to become an enormous revenue-generator as the United States legalizes sports betting.

At the same time, states individually are considering privacy laws updated to include biometrics, according to the news service Axios. And there is some urgency if not passion pushing some legislative actions. Laws passed in the heat of the moment tend to make lawyers wealthy.

Utah debated and passed a privacy law in under two weeks — this after years of avoiding biometric privacy.

This makes things tough for tech firms, social media services, data brokers and researchers facing a legislative quilt. It is an open question whether it will complicate matters for states with professional and top-tier college teams.

The National Law Review this week posted an analysis of sports biometrics from the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, and it is clear that new revenue has a lot of businesses salivating.

Revenue from sports betting, according to the piece, will top $15 billion in three years. Whoop tipped an expansion in professional sports for its biometric wearables in announcing its latest funding round. Deals being signed between leagues and bet-placing companies have already started to include real-time player data as a wagering category.

The Review article posits biometrics-heavy sleeves that players can wear, providing pre-game tips on how basketball free throws might go through the night. If team owners give the sleeves to a player or even mandate its wearing, it is debatable who owns the information.

Regardless of who owns the data, its protection and, ultimately, secure destruction will be a paramount (i.e., expensive) concern. The data of hundreds of thousands is an attractive target, but it could conceivably pale next to a tranche of information about U.S. footballer Christian Pulisic.

The analysis goes deeply into the matter, even asking if there is a right to publicity regarding biometrics. It is a worthwhile read, but, of course, everything could change as states become aggressive.

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