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  • Writer's pictureAshwani Agarwal

Unlocking your phone: Choose between Biometrics or Password Entry?


Biometrics is a be cool elements while using technologies today. It started with fingerprint scanners and has now graduated to facial recognition. No doubt it is very convenient, but comes with a lot of baggage of privacy potholes as well.

The Bad

Today, Biometric data is parsed into data and stored by the company with a promise to apply their own (always state of the art!) encryption. Not only that all distinctive identity traits such as the way a person walks and moves besides the more common ones of retinal scans, voiceprints, facial recognition, can be utilized to identify various elements about you. So be careful when you even take an Instagram selfie. #myrightmyprivacy

The Good

On the good side of things, all this data can be utilized to identify cheats, imposter, and other fraudsters especially in place of casinos, which is a budding ground of new technologies (whether it is card counting or break-ins of Oceans 11 movie)

The Ugly

As we move from the digital matrix world data thefts can take away your life in a matter of minutes. May it be the Sony play station case where 77 million users data was stolen, or ChoicePoint Inc., which had as many as 35,000 Californians data hacked all information of people are being used somewher

e or the other may be to keep it simple and use all your money, some use it for medical history to back mail you or just to hijack your life. Don’t just blindly put your finger on the biometric machine, or your face in front of retina scanner, use the opportunity to ask them why and how the data will be used.

The Hub

All crimes are committed where there are potential gaps in laws, regulations and policies and their enforcement there off.  So the most important component of a crime averse state or a criminal friendly state depends on two things

  1. If the Laws exists

  2. If the laws are complied with through compliance programs in various companies

  3. Enforcement action by the regulatory agencies.

Most of the companies internationally are subject to

  1. European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (A European relegations which put stringent guidelines as to how can companies use your data, when to destroy the data etc., if found non-compliant can lead to serious penalties such as disgorging their profits

  2. California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA)

  3. Washington HB 1493: which imposes strict criteria for the sale, lease or disclosure of biometric identifiers for commercial use, which makes it illegal to collect such information without the person’s consent or surreptitiously It is the third state after Illinois and Texas to enact a law in particular on biometrics.

 Know your rights

There is a difference between passcode and biometrics. William J. Cook attorney at Reed Smith, in Chicago, makes an interesting difference between the password and fingerprint scanner and how can it change the legal ramifications also. He says (Based on my interpretation)

By law, one has the right not to reveal the contents of their mind(s), which includes things like a password, but your fingerprints, face, and hair are a part of who you are and you expose them to the public every day. This is why when a person gets arrested, he or she must consent to fingerprinted while retaining the right to remain silent. #Thoughts #are #protected, but #biometric #identifiers #are #not.

That is why white-collar criminal cases require that the plaintiff/prosecutor prove the burden of showing that the crime was committed with #intent

The Partner at Reed Smith Paul Bind says “The Fifth Amendment protects individuals against saying anything, testimony or statements, that could incriminate them, While it protects information, it does not shield physical things in the world available for production. Making the key to your information a physical key or biometric identifier is putting it in the realm of police power to produce.

In line with an article from LA Times[1] an article mentioned a very important factor a case. Warrants by police are based on probable cause (4th amendment), The authorities obtained a search warrant compelling the girlfriend of an alleged Armenian gang member to press her finger against an iPhone that had been seized in order to access to the data inside it.

So where do you want to go from here – Facial reorganization, fingerprint scanner or remembering your good old password to unlock your electronic devices.

Keep an eye out for yourself #myrightmyprivacy


[1] LA Times


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