3 Issues with Illinois Biometrics Laws

Published: Jul 11, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

With the advancement of technology, law enforcement officers have innovative ways to gather and analyze evidence. Because many of those methods are new, the laws addressing them can be easily misunderstood by officials and the public. Chicago criminal defense lawyer Michael O’Meara can help you understand the legal issues involving biometrics and surrounding a criminal charge. Call him today at 312-909-0706 to learn more about your legal options.

What is Biometrics?

Although the use of biometrics in evidence gathering and analysis has become incredibly common, many people are still confused by these methods and the laws surrounding them. The concept of biometrics is relatively straightforward. It involves the measurement and analysis of physical and behavioral characteristics through technology. It is commonly used to identify people. For example, social media makes use of facial recognition technology to tag people, and fingerprint scanners may be used to unlock your phone.

Biometric technology has become so popular because everyone is entirely unique. Your face and fingerprints have characteristics that don’t match anyone else’s features. Biometrics can enhance security, but lawmakers and others are concerned about privacy. It may enable companies to gain personal information without consumers being informed or consenting to the intrusion. Because of these fears, Illinois passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act in 2008. Unfortunately, this law has led to multiple controversies and many are pushing for reform.

Issues with the Current Illinois Biometric Law

Many people have taken issue with the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act. Some of the key complaints are:

  • It was written too soon. Many attorneys and technology experts argue that the Illinois biometrics law was written before the direction of biometric technology was fully understood. Alan McQuinn and Daniel Castro, both of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, argue the passing of the bill was driven by privacy and surveillance fears instead of an actual understanding of the technology and how it is used in social media, marketing, and security. At the time, the use of fingerprint scanners and “Pay By Touch” systems was just starting, and lawmakers had yet to see how companies would handle customer privacy and security. The statute itself states “[t]he full ramifications of biometric technology are not fully known.” McQuinn and Castro believe legislators created a law based on fear instead of addressing concrete problems.
  • It contains an impractical consent requirement. The Illinois biometric law requires companies using biometrics to obtain written consent from all individuals before they can gather information through the technology. Section 15 of the statute states private companies cannot collect or in any way obtain individuals’ biometric information without first notifying them of the company’s collection, storage, and privacy policies. Companies must obtain a written release from each individual. This requirement has led to a number of lawsuits because individuals and businesses claim that certain social media platforms gather facial recognition information without first obtaining consent. This law has also stopped biometric technology from being used for beneficial purposes like using facial recognition to fight human trafficking because obtaining consent is impractical or impossible, according to McQuinn and Castro.
  • It led to unintended litigation. There are currently lawsuits pending against Facebook, Shutterfly, and Snapchat for biometric-related features, and many people argue the basis of these suits were not what was intended under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Plaintiffs claim Facebook and Shutterfly collect biometric information in violation of the act. Some plaintiffs are upset that Snapchat uses biometric information to add filters and other features to users’ pictures. The law was not intended to outlaw the ability to tag someone in a Facebook post or add a puppy nose and ears to a snap.
  • Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer

    Biometrics is a growing field, and protecting identities and privacy is crucial. The laws surrounding biometrics can be complex and confusing. For more information on biometrics and your rights, contact the Chicago criminal defense lawyers at O’Meara Law LLC at 312-909-0706 for a free consultation.