Privacy issues and biometrics

Privacy issues and biometrics

Biometric data contains information acquired from individuals, which can be used to identify them. This raises issues of privacy and data protection. If the biometric data is recorded in a central database, privacy concerns may be higher than for systems where an individual’s data is stored only on a card retained by the individual. Note however, some biometric applications require a central database for their basic functionality e.g. to check for multiple enrolment attempts.

Enrolees may be concerned that their biometric data could be used for other purposes than it was originally acquired; for example, face image data might be used for surveillance purposes and fingerprint data checked against forensic databases. These concerns are at the heart of many objections to the use of biometrics.

It is therefore necessary to understand privacy issues in regard to biometric data and biometric systems and to apply to protective safeguards in the deployment of these systems. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office is responsible for monitoring the use of biometric systems and for requiring that appropriate procedural and technical measures are deployed in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The biometric standards community is also addressing these issues and developing a code of good practice for applications. 

Read more about data protection

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