US lawmakers are suggesting that there is an even greater need for a biometric data protection bill in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The comments came during a recent hearing held by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, during which chairman Bill Foster argued that the reversal of Roe v. Wade effectively limits people’s right to privacy, at least in certain cases.
The problem, according to Foster, is that states that ban abortion could try to use biometric data to enforce those laws. Without a strong data protection bill, there is little to stop a third party (such as the developer of a period tracking app) from sharing someone else’s data with law enforcement. That means that extremely sensitive information could be used against them in a court of law, even if they never shared that information with anyone in their personal lives.
“States attempting to criminalize access to medical care may try to use biometric data to prove where someone has been and what they did when they were there,” said Foster. “Third parties may also try to access biometric information to collect the bounties now being offered by some states to enforce their new laws. This makes protecting Americans’ biometric data more important than ever.”
The takeaway is that lawmakers will need to be thorough when crafting a data protection bill. The government is trying to support the use of biometrics as a security measure, since the technology is a more secure authentication tool than legacy solutions like passwords. However, any bill would need to ensure that those biometric systems do not turn into mass surveillance tools, and prevent organizations from sharing information on a whim.
In practice, that likely means that government agencies will opt for solutions that do not store data in a centralized location, or that can obscure the individual’s actual biometrics in some way. The Committee itself advocated for the creation of standards and best practices that allow organizations to reap the benefits of biometric tech while still protecting the privacy of individual end users. The movement is in keeping with the mandate of the America COMPETES Act, which provides development funds for solutions that can make the country more resilient.
July 8, 2022 – by Eric Weiss