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The National Biometric Information Privacy Act introduced by US Senator Jeff Merkley.

The National Biometric Information Privacy Act introduced by US Senator Jeff Merkley.

The National Biometric Information Privacy act of 2020, was introduced last week by US Senator Jeff Merkley, accompanied by Senator Bernie Sanders.


The National Biometric Information Privacy Act, a groundbreaking legislation prohibiting private companies from collecting and profiting off biometric data without consumers and employees consent, was recently introduced by US Senator Jeff Merkley. In this context biometric data would include eye scans, fingerprints, voiceprints and faceprints and any other uniquely identifying information, based on the characteristics of an individual’s gait or other immutable features. The introduction of this bill is due to increased concern about the widespread use of biometric data collection within private companies and the implications of the use of that. As an example of the effects of implementing this technology without the relevant ethical principles in place, we find that, according to a study released in December 2019, Asian and Black individuals were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified by facial recognition technology. This has brought about much concern about the consequences of the use of this technology for store surveillance.


This bill limits the use of individuals’ biometric data by companies, without their consent.


This bill aims to limit a company’s ability to collect, buy, sell, lease, trade or retain individuals’ biometric information without specific written consent, and will also require private companies to disclose the information they have collected on someone to them, should they inquire. Any company which fails to comply, if this bill is passed, would be able to have lawsuits brought against them by the individuals violated. 


Senator Jeff Merkely has been instrumental in establishing privacy legislation. 


Senator Jeff Merkely, prior to introducing the National Biometric Information Privacy Act, has been a champion for privacy rights, racial justice and emerging technologies. He played a role in introducing the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Act this June. Along with Senator Cory Booker, introduced the Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act which we reported on earlier this year, and which resulted in a Federal moratorium on the use of facial recognition. This bill was passed shortly thereafter. He has also, in the past, put pressure on the CEO of CLEAR, a biometric identification company, for information on their privacy practices and precautions regarding a new product being marketed to companies for screening employees and customers for coronavirus. In addition, following reports that cars can collect up to 25GB of data per hour, he called upon car manufacturers to report to Congress on whether or not their cars collect personal data from drivers. 


The National Biometric Information Privacy Act is heavily supported by key lawmakers and various groups.


The introduction of this new bill is one of many efforts by this senator in combating what Senator Bernie Sanders has referred to as “a ‘big brother’ surveillance” or “orwellian facial recognition”. This bill is supported by Fight for the Future, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Open Technology Institute. Neema Singh Guliani, Senior Legislative Counsel at The American Civil Liberties Union said “Biometric identifiers are uniquely sensitive pieces of information that can be used to track who we are and where we go.   Importantly, this bill ensures that companies cannot collect and use these identifiers without strong privacy safeguards. It pairs these safeguards with strong enforcement, allowing consumers to take companies who violate these standards to court,” 


What does the future hold for biometric identification technology in the US, Europe and the world at large? While we currently witness major developments in the capabilities and use of biometric identification technology, there has also been a significant amount of legislation introduced to regulate the use of this technology in various parts of the world. The GDPR, for example, gives everyone the right to object to profiling, including biometric profiling. Furthermore, pursuant to Article 35 of the GDPR, “Where a type of processing in particular using new technologies, and taking into account the nature, scope, context and purposes of the processing, is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons, the controller shall, prior to the processing, carry out an assessment of the impact of the envisaged processing operations on the protection of personal data”.


Does your company utilize biometric data such as fingerprinting, voice printing and facial recognition? If yes, failure to adhere fully to the guidelines and rules of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 could result in a hefty financial penalty. Aphaia provides both GDPR adaptation consultancy services and CCPA compliance, including data protection impact assessments, EU AI Ethics assessments and Data Protection Officer outsourcing. Contact us today.

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El Senador estadounidense Jeff Merkley introduce la Ley Nacional sobre Privacidad de la Información Biométrica.
August 12, 2020

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