Washington state gov passes bill on selling biometric data
06 March 2017 15:51 GMT

Washington state House has approved a bill aims to prevent businesses from obtaining or selling biometric information from individuals without their consent.

The proposers noted that people are increasingly being asked to disclose sensitive biological information that uniquely identifies them for commerce, security, and convenience.

It warns that “the collection and marketing of biometric information about individuals, without consent or knowledge of the individual whose data is collected, is of increasing concern”.

The bill, which passed by 81-17, now goes to the state Senate. It comes as a number of other states are considering similar legislation on biometric data.

Alaska, Connecticut, Montana and New Hampshire are all looking at ways to protect their citizens through legislation similar to the landmark Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

However, an analysis of the Washington text by Jeffrey D. Neuburger, Proskauer Rose LLP, writes that it contains several limitations that make it distinguishable from BIPA and soften its overall effect. 

“For example, the bill places an exception to any notice and consent requirements when biometric data is collected and stored "in furtherance of a security purpose" (which is defined as protecting against shoplifting, fraud or otherwise "protecting the security or integrity of software, accounts, applications, online services, or any person"). 

“The bill also provides that the prohibitions on disclosure and retention of biometric identifiers do not apply to disclosure or retention of biometric identifiers "that have been unenrolled" (a term that suggests removal of biometric template data linked to a specific individual from a database”.

However, the bill’s proponents have supported its current form.

“This product is much improved over the earlier bill,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon and chairman of the House Technology & Economic Development Committee, told Geekwire.

Morris said laws on biometrics are needed now to head off future problems. “It’s important to get these rules in place before the horse gets out of the barn,” he said. Currently there is no federal law that regulates the collection or sale of biometrics for commercial purposes, according to a House staff memo.

“It is an emerging field,” said Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, and a co-sponsor of the bill.

Industry Events


connect:ID 2021 5-6 Oct 21