I am pleased to announce publicly that I have been awarded a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2), which, combined with a John R. Evans Leaders Fund Grant, will support a five-year research agenda on how biometric authentication technologies are changing social assistance delivery and the establishment of a research training laboratory for emerging law and society researchers. Here is the public description of the project:
Privacy in the face of high-tech biometrics
The collection and verification of biometric data, including information on individuals’ fingerprints, face, iris, retinal veins, heartrate, DNA, gait, voice and hand geometry, are part of everyday life. It is required to use cellular phones, access bank accounts, receive social assistance, and cross national borders. The widespread acceptance of biometric authentication has led to a multibillion dollar industry and has sparked concerns around data security, individual privacy, and potential abuse by authorities.
Despite concerns, biometric technologies are increasingly used as regulatory tools in the context of social assistance, often in the name of cost savings and fraud prevention. Although many countries are beginning to require the biometric verification and tracking of social assistance beneficiaries, we know little about how biometric-based regulation affects participants, most of whom are disadvantaged or vulnerable populations.
Working with international research partners, Dr. Kate Henne is studying different national, regional, and international social assistance programs that use biometric-based regulation. Her research aims to understand what factors are driving the increased use of biometric technologies, whether this form of regulation delivers on stated goals, and how it changes participants’ social experiences.
Dr. Henne’s work sheds light on how various participants understand and experience biometric-based regulation. In doing so, it provides an in-depth picture of the social effects of biometric technologies and new insights into how law, technology, and regulation increasingly intersect to shape our everyday lives.
The full list of Fall 2017 CRC receipients is available through the Canada Research Chairs website.