What is a biometric identifier?

On behalf of Fox & Fox, S.C.

Everyone has biometric identifiers. According to the Illinois General Assembly, the biometric identifiers protected under the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) are voice and fingerprint, face and hand geometry and scans of the retina or iris.

But why are biometric identifiers so important? They are starting to use them for various identification purposes in Illinois, mainly in security and banking.

Debate and Disagreement

The stakes are high for biometric use pilot programs in the state of Illinois. Unlike an identifying number used on bank accounts and identification such as a Social Security card, biometric identifiers cannot be changed. There’s no going back if your biometrics get stolen. The risk of compromising biometric data is too much for many.

Advocates of the use of biometric identifiers tout the convenience that this technological ability gives to payments and screen unlocks. In a recent article, Forbes has noted that China is quickly adopting face recognition technology in many areas of commerce and security.

What Is Not Included?

More traditional identifiers such as height, weight, hair and eye color are not biometric data under BIPA. Also, any medical data such as exam or treatment records including x-rays and lab tests do not get used as biometric information.

Your Rights

If an employer wants your biometric data, the law requires that:

• Employees need notification of the biometric information request in writing, which explains the reasons for collecting the data.

• The request also needs to identify the method of data collection, how data gets stored, and in what situations warrant use of the data.

• The employer needs to get the employees legal consent in writing before taking action.

No one knows the full consequences of the use of biometric data. Consult with an attorney knowledgeable about BIPA if you feel that your employer has infringedon your biometric data privacy rights.

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