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Biometric Identification, Law and Ethics

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  • Open Access
  • © 2021

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  • First monograph on biometrics and ethics
  • Timeliness given the increasing scope of government application of facial recognition and genomics
  • Provides a multidisciplinary law and ethics analysis
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: SpringerBriefs in Ethics (BRIEFSETHIC)

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About this book

This book is open access. This book undertakes a multifaceted and integrated examination of biometric identification, including the current state of the technology, how it is being used, the key ethical issues, and the implications for law and regulation. The five chapters examine the main forms of contemporary biometrics–fingerprint recognition, facial recognition and DNA identification– as well the integration of biometric data with other forms of personal data, analyses key ethical concepts in play, including privacy, individual autonomy, collective responsibility, and joint ownership rights, and proposes a raft of principles to guide the regulation of biometrics in liberal democracies.

Biometric identification technology is developing rapidly and being implemented more widely, along with other forms of information technology. As products, services and communication moves online, digital identity and security is becoming more important. Biometric identification facilitates this transition. Citizens now use biometrics to access a smartphone or obtain a passport; law enforcement agencies use biometrics in association with CCTV to identify a terrorist in a crowd, or identify a suspect via their fingerprints or DNA; and companies use biometrics to identify their customers and employees. In some cases the use of biometrics is governed by law, in others the technology has developed and been implemented so quickly that, perhaps because it has been viewed as a valuable security enhancement, laws regulating its use have often not been updated to reflect new applications. However, the technology associated with biometrics raises significant ethical problems, including in relation to individual privacy, ownership of biometric data, dual use and, more generally, as is illustrated by the increasing use of biometrics in authoritarian states such as China, the potential for unregulated biometrics to undermine fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Resolving these ethical problems is a vital step towards more effective regulation.

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Table of contents (5 chapters)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia

    Marcus Smith, Seumas Miller

About the authors

Dr Marcus Smith is Associate Professor in Law at Charles Sturt University and Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Canberra. He holds a PhD in law from the Australian National University. He has published widely on technology law, regulation and ethics. His previous books include: Technology Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Biometrics, Crime and Security (Routledge, 2018) and DNA Evidence in the Australian Legal System (LexisNexis, 2016).

Professor Seumas Miller has research appointments at Charles Sturt University, TU Delft and the University of Oxford. He is the Principal Investigator on a European Research Council Advanced Grant on counter-terrorism ethics, and is the author of more than 200 academic articles and 20 books, including The Ethics of Cybersecurity (with Terry Bossomaier) (Oxford University Press, 2021) and Dual Use Science and Technology, Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Springer, 2018).

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