New Hampshire bill would ban biometrics in ID cards

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Acting out of concerns for residents' privacy, the New Hampshire Legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of biometrics data in identification cards.

But at least two trade groups oppose the legislation, saying biometrics technology has a number of security benefits, namely around ID management.

The bill would prohibit biometrics data, including fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA, from being used in state or privately issued ID cards, except for employee ID cards. In addition, it would ban the use of ID devices or systems that require the collection or retention of an individual's biometric data.

Under the bill, biometric data would also include palm prints, facial feature patterns, handwritten signature characteristics, voice data, iris recognition, keystroke dynamics and hand characteristics.

“That's the kind of information the government shouldn't generally require to be gathered about an individual,” New Hampshire Rep. Daniel Itse, who co-sponsored the bill, told SCMagazineUS.com on Wednesday.

But the bill has drawn criticism from several organizations, including the Security Industry Association (SIA), a business trade group covering the electronic and physical security market.

“SIA firmly believes that the broad restrictions proposed by [the bill]… reflects a significant misunderstanding of the security features and privacy safeguards of this widely-adopted technology," the group said in a statement.

SIA encouraged a New Hampshire House committee to reject the bill and conduct a study into the merits of biometrics technology.

This is the only pending bill of its kind in the nation, but in the past there have been similar legislative actions taken in opposition of biometrics technology, Don Erickson, director of government relations for SIA, told SCMagazineUS.com on Wednesday.

“We are concerned about seeing a pattern of these bills start to pop up in states, which will result in a patchwork of different laws that organizations would have to comply with,” Erickson said.

A similar bill, introduced several years ago in Pennsylvania to limit the use of biometrics, was never acted on, Erickson said.

In contrast, numerous bills have passed at the state and federal levels to authorize and implement systems that use biometrics technology for personal identification, Walter Hamilton, chairman and president of the International Biometric Industry Association (IBIA), a nonprofit trade association representing developers, manufacturers, and integrators of biometrics, told SCMagazineUS.com on Wednesday.

“We think it's inappropriate to single out a technology and say, 'Thou shall not use,'” Hamilton said. “We think there are many examples of useful applications where it protects citizens.”

The use of biometrics can thwart fraud and identity theft by ensuring a person is who they claim to be, he said. 

The bill was introduced in January in the New Hampshire House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. It was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday and is scheduled for discussion Thursday in an executive session of the committee.

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