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New York’s biometrics privacy law takes effect, regulating collection and usage of data

PUBLISHED ON 2021-07-09 21:10:00 EST Arghyadeep


New York joined U.S. states like Texas, California and Washington DC as its recently enacted biometric privacy ordinance has taken into effect from Friday, regulating what businesses can do with biometric data collected from customers.

Businesses that collect biometric information like facial recognition and fingerprints must post notices and signs to customers at the doors explaining how the data will be collected. The regulation applies to a wide range of businesses and is also barred from selling, sharing, or otherwise profiting from biometric data.

The move will give the residents and millions of visitors superior protection over the collection and usage of biometric data while also discouraging businesses from using technology that critics say is discriminatory.

A stiff penalty will be levied on businesses violating the law but can escape fines if they can fix the violation post-haste.

However, the law doesn’t apply to government agencies, including the police and also exempts employees of the businesses that the ordinance covers. Businesses can collect and use the employees’ biometric data, like where an employee must clock in and out of work with a fingerprint.

After Portland and Oregon passed a similar ordinance last year, New York is the latest U.S. state to enforce a biometric privacy law.

Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act grants residents the right to sue for any use of their biometric data without consent. In February this year, U.S. Federal Court asked Facebook to pay $650 million to settle a class-action suit that Illinois residents filed in 2015 after the social media giant used facial recognition to tag users in photos without permission.

Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the New York-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said the law is an “important step” to learn how local businesses track New Yorkers.

“A false facial recognition match could mean having the NYPD called on you just for walking into a Rite Aid or Target,” Cahn told TechCrunch, mentioning that the state should outlaw systems like facial recognition altogether, as some cities have done.

Picture Credit: TechCrunch

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