April 21, 2024

Biometrics sparks privacy fears in Ireland

Collecting biometric information could put civil liberties and privacy at risk

Collecting biometric information could put civil liberties and privacy at risk, despite considerable benefits, says the Irish Council for Bioethics (ICB).

In its report, “Biometrics: Enhancing Security or Invading Privacy?”, the ICB explores privacy concerns stemming from the growing use of biometric technologies to counter identity theft.

The technologies reviewed in the report include the familiar ones of fingerprint, palmprint, facial, vein pattern and voice recognition, plus newer technologies like gait (style of walking), keystroke dynamics and DNA. These are a “a more robust confirmation of a person’s identity” than PIN numbers and ID cards.

However, these also put privacy at risk because electronic data can be collected, compiled and connected with rapidly increasing ease. The ICB stated that individual civil liberties could be implicated, especially if personal information enters the public sphere. Individuals could be categorised with biologically-derived labels such as ‘disabled’, ‘criminal’, ‘suspect’ or ‘immigrant’, potentially leading to discrimination.

“The ubiquity of biometrics begs the question whether any of us can lead truly private lives anymore,” said Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan.

The ICB acknowledges the usefulness of biometric information for security and privacy purposes, but demonstrates that the information should be treated with sensitivity and discretion. The report states that “An individual’s biometric information is an intrinsic element of that person. The Council, therefore, recommends that the right to bodily integrity and respect for privacy should apply not only to an individual’s body, but also to any information derived from the body, including his/her biometric information.” The 192-page report can be downloaded from the ICB website.~ TechCentral, Nov 6; Irish Council for Bioethics


Jared Yee

One thought on “Biometrics sparks privacy fears in Ireland

  1. The major problem that fundamentally defeats the purpose of biometric information and/or collection:
    By definition, biometric information cannot be shared with third (foreign) parties because it is meant to be secret or private information. Today, and despite its definition, private biometric identifiers are being shared unwillingly by the authorities and information owners in the storage of biometric information on national databases and ePassport’s SmartCards and from there to other foreign countries and parties (one by one) millions of times in a year via the passports and other legitimate ways… Isn’t it ridiculous?

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