Biometrics & Genetic Technologies & the Right to Privacy

Author:   A.C. Cristiaan |

The technology biometrics market size is nearly 15 billion. It provides a number of advantages within the private, commercial and public sectors. There are several points that allow for the human capture of such unique characteristics.

  • Retina

  • Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS and Non-AFIS)

  • Hand Geometry, Hand Vein and Palm Print

  • Facial

  • Voice Patterns

  • DNA

Such advances have resulted reduction in frauds and security breaches in comparison to using passwords. The financial markets have benefited greatly in its adoption along with additional layers of authentication. Unfortunately, the technologies offered today come with a hefty price tag. There are advancements in the horizon i.e., multimodal biometrics are positioned to expand the market.

The advances have ushered in a great deal of innovation as well as an enormous amount of privacy concerns. For example, serious questions regarding data security and ownership. Unlike most other forms of recognition, biometric techniques are tied to our bodies. Who benefits and at whose expense. For example, some people may choose not to place their fingers on a fingerprint scanner for fear of contracting a disease. Some people may avoid having their photographs taken for a face recognition system because of concerns over how the images will be used.

The general public hasn't been offered the opportunity to understand the undercurrents presented by a new world ‒ where biometric systems are used without regard to individual privacy. Surveillance and large databases of personal information are constantly being put to unknown uses. The biometric data stored in systems have the potential of becoming yet another avenue through which records across systems might be linked and establishing patterns that may only be depicting a binary illusion ‒ irrespective of reality.

There is even greater potential for privacy risk when you address the sharing of your DNA.

Who ultimately profits from your DNA? Certainly, not you the donor. In fact, there are many third parties waiting in line and desperately interested in your data ‒ from rogue entities to research institutions to law enforcement ‒ they are all ready to dip into that rich data pool. Oh and by the way, the consent to providing your genome is not in your control ‒ regardless of what the "Privacy Policy" states. There is only one thin layer of protection that legally covers genetic privacy and that's the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA).

Although the advances in bio technologies are important and beneficial, the potential for lifelong abuse will continue to raise social, cultural, and legal concerns as we awaken the prophetic 1984. If biometric and genetic advances are not harnessed through stronger legislation and protective technological measures ‒ it will ultimately challenge one of our most sacred rights ... the right to privacy and the right to our own identity.


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