It wasn’t long, Kak remembers, before stories about its devastating consequences began to spread. “We were suddenly hearing reports of how manual laborers who work with their hands—how their fingerprints were failing the system, and they were then being denied access to basic necessities,” she says. “We actually had starvation deaths in India that were being linked to the barriers that these biometric ID systems were creating.
The second—and this is a lesson that we keep repeating—consent as a legal tool is very much broken, and it’s definitely broken in the context of biometric data.
So they had a very real conundrum, and they resolved that by saying: We want to create a biometrics policy that minimizes the actual retention of people’s biometric data.
So they thought up both a technical solution and a way for people to withdraw or delete their biometric data with complete agency.
So if we’re just asking the question of do laws exist to regulate biometric data, then the answer would be in most countries, they do.
The policy basically decided not to establish a biometric database with the data of refugees and others in need of humanitarian aid.
A data protection law at its best can help you regulate when biometric data is used and make sure that it isn’t used for purposes for which consent was not given.
So you’re creating this monster centralized, centrally linked biometric data architecture.
Biometric ID systems, which are less talked about, where biometrics are used as a condition to access your welfare services—that’s also proliferated across low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Similarly in Australia, you have this giant database, which includes driver’s license data, that is now going to be used for limitless criminal justice purposes, and where the home affairs department will have complete control.
On September 2, Kak, who is now the director of global strategy and programs at the New York–based AI Now Institute, released a new report detailing eight case studies of how biometric systems are regulated around the world.
But as I argue in that first chapter, these tests are evolving; they have been proven to underperform in real-life contexts; and most importantly, they are limited in their ability to address the broader discriminatory impact of these systems when they’re applied to practice.
Eight case studies on regulating biometric technology show that regulations can be weaponized too. https://t.co/shTnN860k1— MIT Technology Review (@techreview) September 4, 2020