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Biometric info to lead to millions in privacy lawsuits

By Catherine Knowles
Fri 18 Feb 2022

By 2025, privacy lawsuits and claims related to biometric information processing and cyber-physical systems will have resulted in over $8 billion in fines and settlements, according to Gartner.

Gartner research vice president Bart Willemsen says, “Autonomous vehicles, drones that capture video, smart buildings and smart cities are cyber-physical systems that capture biometrics of all kinds.

"The collection and storage of biometric information is gaining, whether in the form of fingerprints, iris scans, remote recognition of face, gait, voice, or even DNA samples. But this information has huge potential to be misused or abused.”

Willemsen says that new privacy laws cover the capture, conversion, storage and processing of biometric data, and can even apply to face tagging technology in social media.

They may also come with a retention regime, and may prohibit selling, leasing, trading or profiting from biometric data. Some prohibit the usage of biometric information in certain use cases altogether.

Willemsen says, “In such cases, it is important that security and risk management leaders and privacy leaders consider alternative, less invasive means to achieve the intended purposes, explaining all necessary information to the customer without any caveat.”

Some multinational, consumer-facing organisations are actively moving toward a self-service model through privacy portals and intake forms. Their intent is to not simply avoid regulatory fines, but also to bolster customer trust and maintain positive brand sentiment.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, large organisations’ average annual budget for privacy will exceed $2.5 million, allowing a shift from compliance ethics to competitive differentiation.

Privacy budgets increased from $1.7 million in 2019 to $2 million in 2021 and are expected to continue to increase at a steady rate, the analysts find.

The sudden uptick in online activity, remote working and virtual learning increased cyber threats. With the expansion of privacy regulation efforts across dozens of jurisdictions in the coming two years, many organisations will only see the need to start their privacy program efforts now.

Gartner recommends that organisations first gain full control in detail over all personal data processing activities before they can hand over that control to the individual. One way to do that is through privacy rights and consent management services, Gartner states.

Willemsen says, “The customer will experience the difference between having to wait weeks for an incomplete answer, or within seconds have full access to the answer to the question ‘what data does an organisation process on me?’ That difference is where trust is gained, or lost.”

Depending on the maturity of their privacy programs, organisations are reaching beyond mere compliance-driven work, toward customer-centric activities, Gartner finds.

For example, allowing customer experience professionals to address customer complaints on lack of transparency, and automation of the privacy UX, or by giving access to privacy rights to all global clientele, whether they have to or not, treating customers internationally equally.

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