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U.S. gov’t gets an earful on biometric data policy. It’s not the first earful….

U.S. gov’t gets an earful on biometric data policy. It’s not the first earful….

Another day, another unambiguous message to government officials and business executives about biometric data — hands off.

Individuals should govern what happens to their biometric data, and when someone decides to let their data be collected, the collecting entity must treat it like the invaluable, unique resource it is.

That is what the U.S. Science and Technology Policy office heard after it posted last fall a request for information about the public and private use of biometric tools. Given the overall pro-privacy sentiment collected at two live events and 130 written submissions, the breakdown of commenters was surprising.

A bit more than a third of those writing came from business. Twenty-nine percent worked at advocacy groups and non-profit foundations. One in five written responses came from academia. A final 15 percent of responses came from government workers, labor union members and unaffiliated individuals.

Speakers were less categorized. Civil society and advocacy groups were most vocal, but industry representatives filled the most seats.

Defense analysis contractor Institute for Defense Analyses collected the feedback in a recent report.

The body of responses makes points that by now are well-known throughout the industry and at least some ground-level government officials.

Beyond giving people agency over their biometric identifiers, respondents (not as a whole; there remain wide differences in society) voiced concern about biased biometric tools and about threats to the freedom of speech and association posed by biometric surveillance.

It is interesting to note that one of the recommendations was to “build in existing law and regulations” covering privacy, civil liberties, non-discrimination and human rights. It is not uncommon for observers to feel overwhelmed by the task of creating new rules, which can squelch needed conversations.

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