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Who’s Keeping Your Fingerprints? Bill Would Make Sure You Know

Bipartisan bill introduced to protect Alaskans' privacy from new biometric technology

JUNEAU - Today, Representative Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) introduced bi-partisan legislation to protect Alaskans' privacy from the increasing number of organizations collecting, requiring and selling citizens' fingerprints, retinal or voice patterns, and other biometric information. Republican Representatives Neuman, Dick, Millett and Keller co-sponsored the bill (HB 233) along with Democratic Representatives Kerttula, Gara and Tuck.

"This is information that is absolutely unique and very personal," said Rep. Gardner. "We all should know who is collecting it and what they're doing with it. It's up to individual Alaskans only to decide when to share that personal information."

The bill would prohibit a business or organization from requiring biometric information, other than photographs, for the purpose of identification and from collecting this information without first getting informed and signed consent. Because organizations that collect biometric information routinely sell the information to third parties, the bill would also prohibit the sale, analysis, disclosure or distribution of biometric information without specific informed and written consent. Under the bill, employers could not require biometric information as a condition of employment except when the information is needed for specific job duties.

"There are plenty of other acceptable and practical ways to identify people without compromising Alaskans' privacy," said Rep. Gardner. "Requiring this type of personal information is too intrusive and absolutely unnecessary."

In 2004, the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed legislation outlawing the collection, analysis, or storage of a law-abiding citizen's genetic information without his or her express written consent. This legislation was drafted in response to rapidly evolving technology that holds great promise for fields such as medicine and law enforcement but which also holds potential for misuse by those who would inappropriately use, share or sell people's genetic data. House Bill 233 updates Alaska statutes to protect not only Alaskans' DNA, but all similar forms of biometric information, in response to the increasing use of new technologies that threatens our rights to keep such information private.

The bill exempts some forms of biometric information collection such as by law enforcement, for driver's licenses and when the collection is otherwise authorized by state or federal law.

The bill received referrals to the House Health and Social Services and Judiciary Committees.

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