From 29-30 October 2019, CTED attended the The Biometrics Institute’s annual Congress promoting the responsible and ethical use of biometrics. The Biometrics Institute is the independent and international impartial membership organisation promoting the responsible use of biometrics as a not-for-profit organisation. It has over 230 membership organisations including many government agencies, and private sector users such as financial institutions and airlines as well as academics and suppliers. The congress was attended by governments, industry, academia and with privacy advocates and regulators addressing a variety of issues around the use and sharing of biometrics.
This year, the use of facial recognition technology was discussed from many perspectives. It was largely agreed that security and protection of privacy are not exclusive but rather mutually reinforcing and must go hand-in-hand. At the same time, efforts to better inform the wider public on the purposes of using facial recognition for surveillance purposes, should be increased. Throughout the congress, many speakers also stressed that laws and regulations are often unable to stay abreast of the fast pace in technology. To increase public trust in the use of biometrics, especially for policing purposes, clear governance must be in place and effectively implemented. Proper governance does not prevent innovation and change.
A dedicated session was held addressing biometrics and children. Panelists highlighted the importance of strong safeguards that must protect the rights of children but also that if biometrics are collected from children, there should be a clear purpose: identity management of refugee children and beneficiary registration. Special considerations should be taken to avoid potential exclusion as failures or errors are more likely to occur with children. It was agreed that more scientific studies and research are needed in order to find solutions to support decision-making. The risks that children face are not the same data privacy and protection issues that adults face.
CTED delivered a keynote address on the international efforts for promoting the responsible use and sharing of biometrics in counter-terrorism. CTED emphasized that the United Nations Compendium of recommended practices for the responsible use and sharing of biometrics in counter-terrorism, released in June 2018, has proven to serve efforts to enhance implementation of not just biometric systems but to use and share biometrics in a responsible and proper manner as is required by Security Council resolution 2396 (2017).
CTED stressed that the Security Council Guiding Principles on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and its 2018 Addendum, adopted in December last year, provides States with further guidance on effective response and implementation focusing especially on the new requirements introduced by resolution 2396. The guidance provided can be utilized and referenced by States in their efforts at the national level. In particular, by introducing the guiding principle on biometrics, the Council elaborated what elements constitute “responsible” use and sharing of biometrics.
CTED also spoke in a panel addressing questions on how to build trust into the usage of biometrics, who is keeping an eye on whether rules are respected, and challenges around surveillance. States are responsible for protecting their citizens from terrorism and terrorist attacks. In this task, biometric technology can significantly strengthen timely identification of terrorists and FTFs and disrupt their travels. At the same time, it must be clear that security and protection of human rights go hand in hand and complement each other. Respect for human rights and the rule of law must be the bedrock of the global fight against terrorism, and beyond rhetoric this principle must be reflected in practice, procedure, and institutional culture. Among other things, the guiding principle on biometrics includes that States should adopt clear human rights-based frameworks for the use of biometric technology that include, inter alia, the use of procedural safeguards, effective maintenance of biometric databases and data-sharing protocols.
CTED will continue its engagement with the Biometrics Institute and participating Member States, academia and private sector actors and all relevant international organizations to raise the awareness of Member States on the responsible and proper use of biometrics in accordance with Security Council resolution 2396 (2017).