BRIEF: Society Begins to Grapple with Ethics of Biometrics

BRIEF: Society Begins to Grapple with Ethics of BiometricsLike pretty much any other groundbreaking technology, biometrics has long carried the promise of great social benefit and the risk of potential abuse. It has always been exciting and controversial. But those qualities have only intensified as biometric technologies have advanced in their sophistication. Today, systems are emerging that can identify people through public security cameras or on the phone, possibly without their knowledge or consent. And that kind of sophistication is bringing a number of ethical issues to the fore.

There has been plenty of discussion of Amazon’s sale of biometric surveillance technology to police authorities, but that matter has served as a lightning rod in a much bigger storm. Free societies are now really starting to grapple with the social implications of highly advanced biometric and AI technologies, and the issues are far from settled. Here’s a sampling of where things stand:

In the UK, government authorities are starting to reckon with privacy and civil rights issues:

UK’s Biometrics Commissioner Calls for More Transparency from Home Office

Scottish Advisory Group Recommends Establishment of Biometrics Commissioner, Rules for Police

UK Tax Authority Under Fire Over Use of Voice Biometrics

In the US, these issues are playing out in court…

Illinois Supreme Court Weighs Whether to ‘Defang’ Biometrics Law

… While private sector companies try to figure out the rest of the ethical morass:

Microsoft President Delves Into Facial Recognition Ethics

Google Commits to Ethical Principles for AI in Wake of Pentagon Contract Controversy

IBM Developing Huge Public Dataset to Help Eliminate Bias from Facial Recognition

And at the global level, the United Nations is starting to delve into the issues, too:

UN Launches Best Practices Guide for Biometrics in Counter-Terrorism