The body as key – Biometric methods for consumers

The consequences of biometric methods focusing on issues of data protection and transparency

From facial recognition at the airport to smart loudspeakers with voice recognition or fingerprint scanners on our cell phones - the human body has become a source of a multitude of data. This ITA study analyzes the consequences of this development, focusing on issues of data protection and transparency.

Currently, everyone is talking about face recognition. Recently, the public has become aware that it is already a profitable business concept to collect and evaluate hundreds of millions of portraits available on the internet. This kind of software can then be sold to law enforcement agencies for face recognition, among others.  It thus represents a powerful surveillance tool able to identify us on the basis of our physical characteristics. 

Recently, the issue of face recognition in public space has been increasingly discussed in public. This is a surveillance tool to identify persons by their physical characteristics. While these applications are mainly required by the security and law enforcement authorities, consumers are also confronted with the measurement and monitoring of physical features in many other areas. Fingerprints to unlock laptops, voice analysis for smart speakers, facial recognition when crossing borders on holiday, iris scans for modern door locks – they all process biometric features.

How is this affecting our privacy? Are consumers aware and accepting of this development? The study will give a brief overview of common methods and discuss the opportunities and risks of biometric information in general. In a summary analysis, we well present the impact on consumers and society and develop recommendations for European and Austrian policy makers.