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US State officials call for stronger biometric data security from federal regulator

US State officials call for stronger biometric data security from federal regulator

A new bipartisan coalition of US officials is calling for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to adopt stronger surveillance and data security measures, according to a news release.

Thirty-three attorneys general from across the country filed a comment letter asking the FTC to consider improved security for biometric data, location data, medical data, and measures intended to fight unlawful data collection and consumer surveillance.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who led the coalition, said that “so much information about who we are, where we go, and what we do is available through the data we leave behind online.”

“We should be able to decide how much of our lives we share with others,” said Stein, whose prior efforts related to online safety include the Family Tech Agreement, a framework for teaching kids about online safety and security awareness.

The bipartisan letter specifically identifies security companies and those that help people trace their ancestry as lacking transparency and accountability in how they collect, manage and resell facial data, fingerprint scans, and other sensitive biometric information. It also takes aim at the opacity of location data sharing options, and, in the health sector, the security risks associated with med-tech devices such as smart watches and heart monitors.

Other recommendations address problems that are arguably powered more by people than devices. The attorneys general call out data brokers, who use personal information to create and sell consumer profiles to marketers, thereby increasing the risk of identity theft, scams and “unwanted and persistent advertising.” And they call for data minimization laws, to limit what kids of data companies can collect and use.

In 2019, Stein reached the largest data breach settlement in history with Equifax, related to the massive 2017 data breach that exposed billions of US citizens’ identity records. Stain regularly comments on issues related to biometrics and online security in North Carolina. This week, he published a guide on how to avoid scams when giving to charities.

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