Centre for Internet & Society

A session by Amber Sinha and Leandro Ucciferri of ADC, Argentina at the Internet Freedom Festival to be held in Valencia, Spain in March has been selected. Amber Sinha will make a presentation.

In the last decade, societies all around the world have seen an exponential growth in the implementation of biometric identification systems, used from the most complex to the most mundane activities that we perform in our daily lives. The research work being carried out by ADC in Argentina, and more broadly in Latin America, allowed us to reach certain observations: In general, public policies related to the use of these types of technologies are carried out with little or no transparency vis-à-vis society; the lack of precise information, which varies country to country, about the technologies and mechanisms being used for the collection, analysis and storage of the biometric data, and the use cases behind such technologies (e.g. the purpose of the data, who will have access to it, if it will be shared and transferred between different public or private bodies); and finally the lack of sufficient legal frameworks to guarantee an adequate treatment of the biometric data collected, both by the State and the private sector.

Additionally, the research by CIS in India and other jurisdictions in Asia shows that biometric identification systems are being portrayed as critical to the use of online services such as e-governance or e-commerce platforms, and facilitates the generation of enormous amounts of transactional data. In India, the biometric identity is envisioned as a ‘cradle to grave’ identity. This unique identifier is key to the integration of different government and private sector databases and poses serious risks of profiling, function creep, lack of accountability and regulation by code.

With this session we aim to address some of the more pressing issues regarding the implementation of biometric technologies in our societies, specifically: a) Threats to bodily integrity and dignity: how biometrics reduce an individual to a number represented through a biometric sequence. b) Irreversible damages in case of breach: unlike passwords, biometrics –such as our fingerprints, our faces, iris or voice– cannot be changed; so once compromised, the damage is irreversible. c) Are biometrics appropriate forms of identifiers? How can we answer questions around uniqueness, discrimination and bias, resolving false positives and false negatives, as well as the change of biometrics over time (e.g. age or medical conditions that may affect our bodies). d) How biometrics are changing our perception of public spaces, specially due to technologies such as facial recognition? e) How are biometric based identification systems reconfiguring the relationship between citizen and state? Together with CIS, we will give a brief overview of the current trends in Latin America and Asia, in order to set the context of the conversation and then allow participants to freely express their own personal/professional expertise to learn about their concerns and experiences in terms of how biometric technologies have affected their day to day lives.

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