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Facial recognition and fingerprint scans?

  • Author: Rena Delbridge
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published March 2, 2010

Isn't technology grand?

Yes, in many ways, but not when it comes to collection of biometric data that could infringe on personal privacy rights, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said.

Biometric data sounds like a sci-fi future trend of personal identification, but it's here now. Entities can require fingerprints scans, facial recognition scans, retinal scans and more for a variety of reasons, and Wielechowski has a bill on the table that would ban such things.

He's concerned that once that information is out there, it could be used to track people's movements.

Several years ago, the Legislature gave broad support to a proposal by Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, to prohibit the collection, storage and analysis of DNA from law-abiding people.

But technology has changed, and Wielechowski wants to update state law to account for new personal data collection methods, like fingerprinting and facial recognition scans.

"In Alaska, we have a very, very strong privacy provision in our Constitution," Wielechowski told the Senate's State Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning. "Once again, emerging technology threatens our privacy rights ... I don't think that's the way our society should be headed.

The senator is also concerned about data storage and handling, a function often turned over to companies that can sell information to the private sector or government.

The amendment comes in part from Wielechowski's contact with a man who tried to take a state CPA exam, refused to offer his fingerprint scan, and was turned away.

Brenda Nation testified on behalf of the American Council of Life Insurers, a national trade association. She had concerns that broad definitions of biometric information could hinder information exchanges and tracking in life insurance and health records.

Committee chairwoman Sen. Linda Menard, R-Mat-Su, said she'll hold the bill for another hearing in a few weeks.