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Bill gives consumers control over biometric data privacy

Consumers will have the choice to consent before companies collect and disclose consumers’ biometric information, such as DNA and retina images, under a bill passed by the California Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1189, the Biometric Information Privacy Act, was authored by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

Wieckowski said in a statement:

“SB 1189 expands consumers’ control over their personal information by prohibiting private entities from selling, trading, or profiting from the disclosure of someone’s biometric information without their consent.” 

Wieckowski added:

“Biometric information involves immutable and highly distinctive traits that are irrevocably tied to our personal identities. Unlike a password or a pin code, when compromised or leaked, biometrics cannot be easily changed.”

Wieckowski’s bill expands on what is considered biometric information to include data created through automatic measurements of a person’s biological and behavioral characteristics. That could be faceprints, fingerprints, voiceprints, images of the retina and iris or other biological details that could establish a person’s identity.

The bill will also give Californians a private right of action if a company violates a resident’s rights.

If the bill becomes law, private entities will have to publish a written policy spelling out how long they will keep the information and guidelines for getting rid of it permanently.

SB 1189 aims to supplement the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which gave consumers the right to deny businesses the opportunity to sell consumers’ personal information. SB 1189 adds more biometric businesses to the list established by the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.

Hayley Tsukayama, legislative activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is sponsoring the bill, said in a statement:

“People should be able to choose which companies they trust with their biometric information. … When this information is misused, it can threaten privacy, free expression, equity and security.” 

Co-sponsoring the bill is the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit focused on the privacy rights and issues of consumers.

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