Australian Academic Calls for Restriction of Online Biometrics

multimodal biometricsAn Australian academic specializing in telecommunications law has authored a new paper arguing for stricter privacy controls online with respect to the use of facial recognition technology. In an article published in the International Journal of Law and Information Technology, Niloufer Selvadurai suggests that a lack of laws regulating the use of this technology represents a threat to users’ privacy.

Selvadurai worries that facial recognition technology will soon be pervasive on the internet, with private companies using it on unwitting individuals, and suggests enacting laws to restrict such practices. Indeed, facial recognition technology is already being developed for real-world use in commercial settings in which unwitting shoppers would be analyzed, potentially without their consent or knowledge. Online, the use of biometric analysis by private companies like Facebook is already leading to legal trouble in the United States, and concerns about privacy laws in Europe have compelled Facebook to keep such technology out of the region.

In Australia, there’s already a lively ongoing debate about biometric data collection on the part of police and government authorities. With this in mind, it seems likely that Selvadurai’s argument will touch a chord among citizens concerned about such practices being performed by private companies. Still, there’s a tradeoff: Following through with restrictive laws could render innocuous products like Facebook’s Moments app illegal. Just as citizens must ask themselves whether they’ll trade off privacy for security, they may also ask whether to give up some privacy for useful products and services employing biometrics. Ultimately, the issue may come down to which sector the Australian public trusts less – the government, or business.