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On the Pulse Conversation: Is there a case for licensing biometric systems?

31 March-31 December

On demand

On the Pulse Conversation: Is there a case for licensing biometric systems? is now available to Biometrics Institute members on demand here.


60 minutes


The Biometrics Institute aims to deliver content to its members in a timely and concise format. The past 18 months have demonstrated that the online meeting place allows our members to connect globally and discuss important topics as and when the conversation is most needed.

Is there a case for licensing biometric systems?

The effectiveness and scope of regulatory and legislative frameworks that address biometric technologies vary greatly across different regions, countries, legal jurisdictions and operating environments. It is also not uncommon for technological innovation to outpace these frameworks in terms of novel use case applications and biometric modalities. This situation has, in some instances, led to increased public mistrust, concerns for privacy and civil liberties and a rise in litigation. The dissemination of misinformation and disinformation by a range of poorly informed commentators, reviewers and malicious actors has added to the disquiet. In response, some suppliers have applied self-imposed product implementation moratoria to allow authorities time to formulate the necessary legislation while legislatures and courts in several countries have placed outright bans on specific biometric applications, especially live facial recognition systems.

The key issue is that most forms of legislation and regulation have traditionally been applied to new and emerging biometric technologies retrospectively i.e. when they have already been implemented in the public domain and concerns have then been raised by various parties. The passive, reactive nature of this approach tends to fuel the perception that authorities are always on the back foot trying to catch up with technological advances in order to control them in a continual ‘cat and mouse’ game. This, of course, is not always the case but the pace of current technological development is now challenging even the most proficient and robust legislatures. Technological developments tend to be measured and delivered in months while new or revised legislation often takes years. Genuine innovation and responsible product development may be stifled in some instances while poorly conceived and unethical biometric applications can be put into operation, with apparent impunity, in other scenarios. This, in turn, has led to the introduction of some biometric applications that have negatively impacted the privacy, rights and freedoms of those affected by the system while other potentially useful systems have been compromised or closed down and therefore failed to provide adequate benefits for civil society or protection for the intended users. What is the answer?