Biometrics a Key Factor in Comparitech Ranking of Countries’ Privacy, Surveillance Practices

Biometrics a Key Factor in Comparitech Ranking of Countries' Privacy, Surveillance Practices

The United States ranks just as poorly as the worst European Union members when it comes to privacy laws and government surveillance, according to a new analysis from Comparitech.

Conducted by privacy advocate and tech journalist Paul Bischoff, the analysis scores various countries out of five, with 4.1-5 indicating that a country ‘upholds privacy standards on a consistent basis’ while 1.1-1.5 means ‘endemic surveillance’. EU countries are among the top performers, with Ireland getting a score of 3.2 and France, Portugal, and Denmark each attaining 3.1. But the bottom few EU countries reached a score of only 2.7; these include Italy, Hungary, and Slovenia.

That’s also the US’s score, thanks in part to the country’s increasing use of biometric technology at the border, its lack of federal laws regarding the use of CCTV surveillance, and ‘numerous data breaches across all sectors’. In his writeup, Bischoff notes that the US government has built a database of facial and fingerprint data pertaining to “over 200 million people who have tried to enter, have entered, or have exited the US”.

China is, of course, the worst-ranked in the analysis, with Bischoff noting that the government’s use of facial recognition for surveillance is now the “norm”, and highlighting the state’s oppressive biometric surveillance of the country’s Uighur population. Russia isn’t far behind, attaining a score of 2.1 compared to China’s 1.8, though that country is flagged more for its censorship and control of the media and the internet in Bischoff’s analysis.

In considering the very use of biometric surveillance identification as a negative factor in a country’s score, the Comparitech analysis helps to further illustrate the controversy now associated with this technology, and with facial recognition in particular. But regulations and the handling of data are also important considerations: The UK, for example, is certainly no stranger to biometric tech in law enforcement and security; but Bischoff credits the country, which scored 3.0, for its Data Protection Act, its active Information Commissioner’s Office, and its regulations concerning the use of CCTV.

Source: Comparitech

October 18, 2019 – by Alex Perala