In the United Kingdom, the facial images of 12.5 million people, hundreds of thousands of whom are not guilty of a crime, are stored in the National Police Database (NPD), while HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC) has gathered over five million voice recordings without consent. This defies a 2012 British High Court ruling that ordered the Home Office to delete face and voice biometrics of detainees who have been released without charge or acquitted – in line with the law requiring the deletion of DNA and fingerprints. The collection and storage of people’s biometric data fundamentally changes the relationship between citizen and state. Once “presumed innocent,” we are now, in the sinister words of former U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, “unconvicted persons” – people who have not been found guilty of a crime, yet.
Thanks to Aadhaar, more than a half-billion people have connected their digital IDs directly to a bank account, allowing the government to deposit over $12 billion without the risk of fraud, theft, or – especially important for women – the male drinking and domestic violence that frequently accompanies sudden infusions of cash. For many of India’s poor, living in unmapped villages or slums, a digital ID gives them official personhood – just as a birth certificate or social security number does in developed countries. But biometrics increases the likelihood of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, the dystopia of an all-seeing state. China makes no effort to hide its use of biometrics and artificial intelligence (AI) to police its population. Less well known is the advanced use of biometrics in liberal democracies. In the United States, a study in 2016 by the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law Center found that the facial images of more than 117 million Americans – nearly half of all U.S. adults – were held in U.S. law enforcement databases, some of which are accessible by the FBI. Next month, Customs and Border Protection will start using a new facial- recognition technology as part of a larger Biometric Exit Program already operating in the airports of eight U.S. cities.
The collection and storage of people's biometric data
fundamentally changes the relationship between citizen and state. Once "presumed innocent," we are now, in the sinister words of former U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, "unconvicted persons" – people who have not been found guilty of a crime, yet.
72 September 2018
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