Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act: Biometric Privacy Invasion

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act  seeks to maintain the privacy of all data received through biometric scanning. As of the time of this article’s writing, there is a new bill that seeks to change certain wording in the act that would make it easier to acquire biometric information and biometric identifiers.

“Biometric identifiers” include voiceprints, fingerprints, facial geometry, and iris scans. An identifier does not include anything covered under the Genetic Information Privacy Act, nor height, weight, eye or hair color. The amendment to the bill seeks to change the definitions of the aforementioned identifiers and lengths at which they can be acquired. For example, a mobile phone’s camera can detect a fingerprint and the proposed wording could allow it to count as a “detector or electronic beam” and thus be admissible. And possibly even worse is the fact that the new wording would drop digital facial recognition from being covered by the law; meaning that data collected by software would no longer be protected.

Some of the most popular ways of this data being collected is through Facebook, Google photos, and Snapchat. It is worth noting that all three are embroiled in lawsuits for violating the act, and are suspected to be lobbying for the amendment. Stores such as Wal-Mart, CVS, and Tesco all use biometrics to detect shoppers in the store and distinguish whether they are shoplifters or not. Some higher end stores in Europe also use the technology to detect VIP status customers and greet them as such. One such company that offers this service is Herta Security. The following is quoted directly from Herta’s consumer website:

Face recognition is one of the least invasive biometrics, since data is captured effortlessly and generally involves no user interaction. Herta’s video surveillance solution, BioSurveillance, detects multiple faces in real-time, incorporates on-the-fly video enrolment, identifies previously trained individuals, and facilitates run-time management of alarms and individuals.

  • BioSurveillance uses video surveillance cameras to recognize the faces of blacklisted people.
  • BioSurveillance yields excellent performance with partial occlusions of the face, glasses, scarfs, caps, changes of facial expression, shadows, high contrasts and extreme or poor lighting conditions, and on moderate rotations of the face.
  • BioSurveillance works on the move and at a distance, and does not require end-user collaboration.
  • Individuals can be enrolled in the system through a photograph as well as using real time or recorded video.

BioSurveillance is the right solution to increase security in crowded environments such as airports, train or metro stations, shopping malls, sport stadiums, or urban centres.

Though it is quoted as being “the least invasive biometrics,” “invasive” here is only used as a word meaning not impeding the customer in any physical way, but is extremely invasive to privacy. Pedantic as that is, it is very important here. Being misleading and seeming nonthreatening is a huge part of marketing, especially for dangerous and threatening products we do not know the full consequences of, but that is beyond the purview of this article. The main thrust here is that the technology is not something to be wary of, but inviting because of its convenience.

What is so scary about biometrics is not that it exists, but that it is being developed without any say or choice from the people it is targeting, the general public. There is also the distinction between certain personal identifiers and biometrics. For example, if your social security number is compromised, it can be changed with little difficulty. Biometric signatures are biologically unique to the individual and little, if anything at all, can be done if the data is compromised by hackers. What is even scarier is that we, the general public, can really only hope that the Illinois Legislature doesn’t kill the act and let our privacy die.

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