Biometric Privacy

  • Starts: 3:30 pm on Wednesday, September 25, 2019
  • Ends: 5:00 pm on Wednesday, September 25, 2019
You might have heard the saying, "Biometrics are usernames, not passwords." But outside the tech world, most people have no idea of the scale of threats we’re all facing regarding the inadequately regulated field of biometric privacy.

Governments worldwide are using facial recognition for surveillance and criminal justice, often leading to disastrous consequences, particularly in countries without strong human rights protections. Companies, too, are developing more uses for facial recognition, often with a “Move fast and break things” mindset. People willingly put photos, videos, and audio of themselves online and into company databases. They also use apps and consumer tech that collect biometric data. At the same time, deepfake technology is advancing rapidly, and cyber harassment and revenge porn remain troubling, unsolved societal problems. In an age of surveillance capitalism, not only are consumers willingly giving up their face data for app discounts, but they’re also giving up their DNA data for questionably accurate genomic analysis. The popularity of DNA testing kits like 23andMe has led to a rise in public and private DNA databases, which come with their own risks, from potential government misuse of data to basic security risks that come with any large-scale collection of sensitive data.

The worst possible scenario, of course, is that we create a future where all of these privacy-invasive technologies will succeed and proliferate without laws or technological solutions to stop any of the harms to civil liberties. That’s a world in which you have zero privacy, because your unique and permanent biometric markers are being tracked everywhere you go–including, potentially, in your own thoughts. (See, e.g., the new brain-computer interface technologies from Elon Musk’s Neuralink or Facebook’s Reality Labs.)

Biometric privacy is one of the most dangerous but least understood phenomena in technology today. In this Cyber Alliance talk, Visiting Clinical Assistant Prof. Tiffany Li will explore the unique biometric privacy risks and harms of these new technologies, and offer some solutions for what we can do to create a safer and more just society that still protects human rights, even in the face of these dire privacy threats.

There will be time for casual conversation and light refreshments before and after the presentation. Please RSVP to
School of Law, 15th Floor Faculty Lounge, 765 Commonwealth Ave.