Researchers provide evidence to House of Commons committee on biometrics

Researchers provide evidence to House of Commons committee on biometrics

In August 2014, the House of Commons announced an inquiry on Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies and sought written submissions addressing the following points:

  • How might biometric data be applied in the future?
  • What are the key challenges facing both Government and industry in developing, implementing and regulating new technologies that rely on biometric data? How might these be addressed?
  • How effective is current legislation governing the ownership of biometric data and who can collect, store and use it?
  • Should the Government be identifying priorities for research and development in biometric technologies? Why?

More than 30 written submissions were received, including submissions from three Partnership researchers, including Leadership Fellow Professor Louise Amoore of Durham University, and researchers Professor Liesbet van Zoonen of Loughborough University and Dr Richard Guest of the University of Kent.

In her evidence, Professor Amoore stated that a “likely future trajectory” was a shift towards “the integration of biometric data” into a “much larger and rapidly growing array of digital big data” in ways that were “capable of producing profiles or behavioral maps of individuals and groups”.

Professor Amoore described such developments as potentially “game-changing” on the grounds that there are:

analytics engines […] that can mine biometric data that is available on the internet, and link that to other forms of data […] That moves us more in the direction of indicating not just who someone is but suggesting that one might be able to infer someone’s intent from some of the biometric data.

Dr Richard Guest, in his evidence, raised concerns that while the capabilities of biometric technologies had advanced, citizens had “not been brought along on the journey”.

Professor van Zoonen stated that public anxiety around biometrics centred on at least three areas: first, “strong cultural associations” of biometrics with “state control and surveillance”; second, fears about losing control over personal data, with data subsequently being “lost or abused” and third, concerns about whether personal data was acquired and stored securely.

For further information read the full House of Commons report.