United States Is 4th Worst Country When It Comes to Securing Biometric Data

A new report ranks 50 countries based on where they are taking biometrics, what they’re being taken for and how they’re being stored.

Biometrics has quickly become a commonly found technology. What was once relegated to science fiction films can now be found on our front doors. Whether it’s being used as a method to unlock your smartphone, or to enter a sporting event, biometric technology is now commonplace.

But where does all this data end up, how is it used and who is in control of it?

Tech research site Comparitech recently looked at 50 countries to find out where biometrics are being taken, what they’re being taken for, and how they’re being stored, and ranked them from worst to best in terms of data collection methods and uses.

Key discoveries Comparitech found include:

  • Many countries collect travelers’ biometric data, often through visas or biometric checks at airports
  • Every country we studied is using biometrics for bank accounts, e.g. fingerprints to access online app data and/or to confirm identities within the banks themselves
  • Despite many countries recognizing biometric data as sensitive, increased biometric use is widely accepted
  • Facial recognition CCTV is being implemented in a large number of countries, or at least being tested
  • EU countries scored better overall than non-EU countries due to GDPR regulations protecting the use of biometrics in the workplace (to some extent)

To score the countries, Comparitech looked at five key areas that apply to most countries (in order to offer a fair country-by-country comparison and to ensure the data is available).

Each country  was scored out of 25, with high scores indicating extensive and invasive use of biometrics and/or surveillance and a low score demonstrating better restrictions and regulations regarding biometric use and surveillance.

5 Best Countries for Biometric Data Collection

The top five countries unsurprisingly consists of European countries. Europe institutes strict privacy standards. The recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) helps cut down the processing of biometric data, especially in the workplace.

  1. Ireland (11/25)
  2. Portugal (11/25)
  3. Cyprus (11/25)
  4. UK (12/25)
  5. Romania (12/25)

5 Worst Countries for Biometric Data Collection

China is well-known for its extensive video surveillance network. Couple that with the use of facial recognition technology and the fact that there is no specific law to protect citizens’ biometrics and you end up with China at the top of the list for worst countries when it comes to the collection, use and storage of biometric data.

The United States came in at number four due to having biometrics in passports, ID cards, voting systems and bank accounts, as well as for the rising use of facial recognition technology.

  1. China (24/25)
  2. Malaysia (21/25)
  3. Pakistan (21/25)
  4. United States (20/25)
  5. India, Indonesia, The Philippines and Taiwan (19/25)

Check out the full report for summaries of why each country earned their ranking, as well as the methodology behind the rankings.

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