Biometrics in Beta: Experimenting on a Nation

In the developing world, privacy is often portrayed as a luxury, as something alien to local culture and of interest only to the elite. This ignores the probability of the most marginalized sections of a society being disproportionately impacted by privacy intrusive technologies. The hype about big data, open data, ICT4D and other buzzwords often ignores the fact that the global south is particularly vulnerable to data collection and processing. This session will highlight the risks of using technologies such as biometrics to solve socioeconomic problems, and their potential for excluding the very demographics that they seek to include. By doing so, participants will redress in some small measure the largely western focus of academic and policy debates in this field, despite the reality of Asian countries seeking to emerge as biometrics hubs, commoditize and export identity schemes, normalize surveillance and censorship and opportunistically benefit from a race to the bottom.

Talk at RightsCon by Malavika Jayaram, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society.