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Washington adopts advanced laws protecting biometrics

Governor Inslee signed two biometrics bills into law this week, making Washington a leader in the category of protecting these unique biological identifiers, both in the public sector and private sector arenas.

HB 1493 establishes requirements of clear notice and consent before a company can collect a biometric identifier.  The definition of biometric is fairly broad, covering many different biological characteristics and systems.  A few other states have biometric collection laws, with Illinois and Texas being the most prominent.  This law may prevent a social media company from using an iris scan or heartbeat identifier, without user consent.  Unless consent is obtained, the biometric identifier may not be used for a commercial purpose.

HB 1717 requires state agencies to obtain consent before collecting, capturing, purchasing or otherwise obtaining biometric identifiers such as iris scans, facial geometry, fingerprints and DNA (photos, donated organ tissues, and health care info is excluded).  General law enforcement agencies are exempted with respect to fingerprints and DNA, as are limited law enforcement authority agencies  when acting in certain capacities akin to law enforcement or obtaining biological samples without consent.  In order to clarify this last provision, HB 2313 will be introduced in the House and Senate in this special session.

Alex Alben the state's Chief Privacy Officer testified in favor of this broad approach for protection of biological data in a workshop this past March. Representatives Morris and Smith, among others, championed this legislation.




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