New report on the ethics of biometric technologies
15 March 2019 17:05 GMT

A new report by Peace Research Institute Oslo addresses the widespread ethical issues raised by the increasing use of biometric technologies.

Written by Nina Boy, Elida K.U. Jacobsen and Kristoffer Lidén, it concentrates on the social and political effects of novel governmental schemes of policing, surveillance and identity management that combine biometric information with cloud based computing and the automated analysis of big data.

The writers say the potential for sharing biometric data on web-based servers, as well as combining these data with other data for the sake of public and commercial service delivery are changing the political and economic significance of biometrics.

Therefore, it is important to understand the uses of the technology, and the ethical questions that arise. So far, ethical considerations of biometrics have highlighted the consequences for the privacy, autonomy, welfare and security of individuals.

In addition to such impact on individuals, biometric schemes also affect societal bonds and cohesion, as well as political order. The report concentrates on the social and political dimensions of these concerns, as aspects of the societal ethics of biometric technologies.

Policy Relevance

In order to devise political responses to the increasing usage of biometric technologies in governance and commerce, it is essential to understand their perils and promises. The report draws on examples from around the world of relevance to the legal regulation of biometrics in Europe in particular. The report:

• Highlights the benefits and problems of biometrics.

• Investigates European politics and legislation by providing an overview of the introduction of biometric schemes of refugee management, national ID and policing in the European Union.

• Presents three cases of how social institutions are affected by large-scale biometric schemes of public governance: 1) counter-terrorism and policing through facial recognition in the UK; 2) the EURODAC system for asylum and refugee registration in Europe; and 3) India’s massive biometric scheme of national IDs for multiple purpose.

• Outlines a range of broader societal perspectives that ought to be considered when regulating new applications of biometrics.

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