Biometric technology


Biometric technology has become an increasingly common part of daily life. Although biometrics have been used for decades, recent ad- vances and new uses have made the technology more prevalent, particu- larly in the private sector. This Note examines how widespread use of biometrics by the private sector is commodifying human characteristics. As the use of biometrics has become more extensive, it exacerbates and exposes individuals and industry to a number of risks and problems asso- ciated with biometrics. Despite public belief, biometric systems may be bypassed, hacked, or even fail. The more a characteristic is utilized, the less value it will hold for security purposes. Once compromised, a biome- tric cannot be replaced as would a password or other security device. This Note argues that there are strong justifications for a legal struc- ture that builds hurdles to slow the adoption of biometrics in the private sector. By examining the law and economics and personality theories of commodification, this Note identifies market failure and potential harm to personhood due to biometrics. The competing theories justify a reform to protect human characteristics from commodification. This Note presents a set of principles and tools based on defaults, disclosures, incen- tives, and taxation to discourage use of biometrics, buying time to streng- then the technology, educate the public, and establish legal safeguards for when the technology is compromised or fails.