Institute joins calls to make privacy a priority with updated universal guidelines

The Biometrics Institute has released its updated Privacy Guidelines, which include two brand new principles. The first is around the need for a communications plan which explains the pros and cons of using a biometric to ensure maximum understanding among both the public and the organisation’s own employees. The second is for law enforcement to ensure that even when there is an exemption under the law, actions are ethical and sensitive to community expectations and human rights.

Every two years, the Biometrics Institute updates its Privacy Guidelines to make sure they reflect global changes in technology or legislation which impacts privacy. They are the result of extensive monitoring and consultation by its Privacy and Policy Expert Group, which comprises a broad spectrum of privacy specialists from around the globe.

The membership organisation is launching its updated guidelines in Privacy Awareness Week (3-9 May) whose 2021 theme is ‘make privacy a priority’.

Key changes to the 2021 Privacy Guidelines update include:

  • The strengthening of existing principles to meet developments since the last review, including COVID-19 effects on privacy, advances in artificial intelligence, the popularity of ancestry-type search engines and the increasing sophistication of international crime and terrorism
  • Greater protection against cultural or other discrimination, and to ensure that people who do not have access to IT systems do not lose rights or privileges
  • Stronger advice about openness and the gaining of informed consent
  • Strengthening of advice to users such as police, courts and purchasing officers for major biometric systems to fully understand issues of accuracy, bias and success or failure rates
  • Ensuring the fair handling of complaints and expert human intervention in cases where people are harmed or disadvantaged by the operations of a biometric system         

As biometric technology continues to affect a growing number of the world’s citizens, the Privacy Guidelines are designed to be universally useable and provide good practice advice on the roll out and management of biometric-based projects.

Terry Aulich, head of the Biometrics Institute’s Privacy and Policy Expert Group said, “The guidelines are not intended to replace local laws, but bring a higher level of good practice to the fore. Whether the users are police forces, the aviation industry, border authorities, humanitarian organisations, health researchers or social media companies, the guidelines are ethical and practical advice about obtaining a genuine balance between technology and human considerations.”

The guidelines, first introduced to Biometrics Institute members in 2006, are made up of 18 principles ranging from non-discrimination to maintaining a strong privacy environment. They also contain a methodology to make planning, implementing and managing them straightforward, regardless of members’ maturity in using biometrics.

The head of the Biometrics Institute’s Privacy and Policy Expert Group, Terry Aulich, will be discussing this update at an international online member meeting on 12 May.

The Privacy and Policy Expert Group comprises members from many countries and sectors and includes government privacy authorities, independent consultants, airports, academics, social media organisations and legal experts.

Members can download the guidelines here.



Notes to editors:

The Biometrics Institute is the independent and impartial international membership organisation for biometric users and other interested parties. It was established in 2001 to promote the responsible use of biometrics and has offices in London and Sydney.

With more than a thousand members from 240 membership organisations spread across 30 countries, it represents a global and diverse multi-stakeholder community. This includes banks, airlines, government agencies, biometric experts, privacy experts, suppliers and academics.

The Biometrics Institute connects the global biometrics community. It shares knowledge with its members and key stakeholders and most importantly, develops good-practices and thought leadership for the responsible and ethical use of biometrics.

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