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When Biometrics Get Stolen

Introduction

Samsung just got strapped with a $4M arbitration fee to over 35K customers involved in a class action lawsuit against the telecom company.

Why are they being sued? Allegedly, they’ve been misusing their customers’ biometric data. In Illinois, they take the illegal harvesting of biometric information very seriously — as this ruling demonstrates.

What is Biometric Information?

Simply put, biometric data encompasses all unique physical or behavioral characteristics that can be used to identify an individual. Some common types of biometrics that you might already encounter on a regular basis include fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition and iris scans. Biometric data is increasingly being used across ALL industries, presenting a more secure and convenient way to authenticate users and protect sensitive information.

That’s right, it’s not just spies and sci-fi movies that use your likeness to verify your identity. Most smartphones do it these days, too!

In many ways, biometric identification is a very reliable method for maintaining your personal devices’ security. It is very difficult to forge or steal your face, voice and fingerprint (although not impossible with deepfake technology) because they are necessarily unique to each individual. That makes it a more secure and less fallible barrier to your accounts and data, compared to passwords and PINs and other traditional authentication methods, which can be more easily stolen and replicated.

Another benefit of using biometric data for cybersecurity is that it is very convenient. Users do not need to remember passwords or carry tokens; instead, they can simply use their own unique selves to gain entrance to their accounts, which can save time and improve the user experience.

It’s not just authentication that makes this technology useful, though: They can also control access to physical and digital resources. For example, many buildings now use facial recognition systems to allow authorized personnel to enter. Biometric data can also be used to detect and prevent fraud, like if your bank required fingerprint ID before allowing you to withdraw money from an ATM.

There are myriad uses for biometric identification technology in today’s society! Although like any software it is neither infallible nor unbiased, nevertheless it is one of the most advanced and secure authentication methods that we currently have.

Samsung’s Problem

Approximately one in five smartphones sold worldwide today is a Samsung Galaxy.

In Illinois, that worked out to just over 35,651 customers who will get a share of the settlement. 14K additional customers that sued Samsung, but whom did not live in the Northern District of Illinois where the case was brought, will not receive compensation.

The state of Illinois passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act, commonly known as BIPA, in 2008. This enforces strict data privacy laws surrounding biometric data harvested within the state. This settlement that Samsung must pay out shows just how seriously they are taking data privacy—and violations.

Conclusion

It’s not just Illinois. Regulations surrounding biometric data, and all other kinds of private information, have been cropping up in federal and local governments around the world. Clearly, there is a global vested interest in guaranteeing better data privacy for all, not just insofar as stopping cybercriminals seeking to sell your information on the dark web, but also to prevent companies from harvesting more of your personal data than you know and consent to.

Do you love this kind of technology, or fear the consequences? There’s no right answer! We have to be aware of the pros and cons of new technology as it becomes a more commonplace experience in our daily lives.

References

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