The Biometrics Institute has released Three Laws of Biometrics to guide the development and deployment of biometric technologies. The idea is inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, though the Laws themselves have obviously been updated to reflect concerns about a different technology in a different era.
According to the Institute, the Three Laws of Biometrics are Policy, Process, and Technology (PPT), and they are meant to be applied in that specific order. First, biometrics developers should make sure that the thing they want to do follows certain legal and ethical principles, which is to say that it should respect the privacy and civil liberties of the people using it. After that, developers should have internal processes in place to make sure that those policies are followed, and only then should they proceed with the development of the technology itself.
The second Law requires a comprehensive review process that holds developers accountable for any missteps. Technology, meanwhile, covers all stages of development, and also implies that developers should be familiar with the risks and vulnerabilities of the technology they are creating. In that regard, they should have a complete understanding of their algorithms and their data set, and be aware of any limitations or ethical pitfalls they may encounter once those technologies are released to the public.
The Institute is hoping that the Three Laws will lead to solutions that make human lives better, and do not enable various forms of exploitation. At their core, the laws imply that just because tech developers can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should.
“We want our members and everyone using biometric technology to thoroughly assess each use case and the impact on its users,” said Biometrics Institute Chief Executive Isabelle Moeller. “We hope that the Three Laws of Biometrics will be an easy reminder of the principles anyone operating in this space should hold.”
While the Laws make sense from a human rights perspective, it is worth noting that biometric development has not always followed those guidelines. For example, facial recognition has often outstripped facial recognition policy, and legislators are struggling to keep pace now that the technology is already being used in surveillance operations all over the world.
October 9, 2020 – by Eric Weiss