Fingerprint Not Recognized: Why the United States Needs to Protect Biometric Privacy

May 7, 2018

Rising interest in biometrics—the modern umbrella term for physical and behavioral characteristics possessed by humans and used to identify one another—has motivated large technology companies to produce products that allow consumers to access vital information using only their unique biometric identifiers. Because biometric information is unique to each person on the planet, it is a valuable way to secure personal data. However, the uniqueness and permanence of biometric information heighten the consequences of security breaches when compared to the compromise of simple alphanumeric passwords. Growing interest in biometric technology across the United States has motivated a small number of state legislatures to address the collection, storage, and distribution of biometric information by business entities, but the legal framework for handling that information is largely underdeveloped. As biometric identification becomes more prevalent, the rest of the states and the federal government must decide how to address privacy concerns. Passing new laws, retrofitting old laws to address new technologies, and choosing not to take legislative action are just a few of the options both state and federal governments are considering. Based on the level of interest, and the number of concerns, with biometric identification technology, the federal government is best equipped to address these concerns. If Congress chooses to introduce biometric privacy legislation, which would provide uniform protection for all American consumers and employees, there will certainly be relentless lobbying from the tech sector concerning the contents of the bill. Congress will need to balance biometric privacy with corporate interests if they decide to try and enact a much-needed biometric privacy law.