Press Release
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Press Contact:
Irene Oujo (201) 996-1154


For Immediate Release

P&ABs Special Issue examines new biometric uses in the private sector, consumer issues and privacy guidelines for business with useful guide to available biometric resources.

Hackensack, NJ//January 7, 2003 A majority (56%-91%) of the U.S. public believes it is acceptable for the private sector to use biometric technologies, according to the recently released two-wave survey commissioned by SEARCH, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and developed by Dr. Alan Westin, President & Publisher of Privacy & American Business (P&AB). The survey findings are analyzed in the latest issue of the P&AB Electronic Newsletter which focuses on biometrics in the private sector. The survey found that public support for biometrics hinges on the privacy safeguards set in place by legislators and adopted voluntarily by companies themselves to protect consumers from potential misuse of their biometric identifiers and to gain consumer trust.

Prepared and written by P&ABs Dr. Westin, the leading authority on privacy, this special issue spotlights business uses of biometric technologies, which take physical characteristics to electronically identify an individual, like finger or facial scans. Also included in this issue are guiding privacy principles for companies using biometrics proposed by Privacy & Information Commissioner of Ontario and co-author of The Privacy Payoff, Ann Cavoukian, and the International Biometrics Groups BioPrivacy Initiative. An extensive list of biometric resources for business is also featured this month.

Biometrics will be just one of the many topics shaping todays privacy scene explored at P&ABs Ninth Annual National Conference March 12-14 at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. Visit for more information.

"Many organizations are turning to biometrics and other technologies to help them implement new government imperatives, but also to protect their customer, client, and patient information. This survey, which tests the parameters of consumer concern and acceptability of biometrics, is most important," said Dr. Alan Westin.

Public Willing to Accept Biometrics

Although consumer experience with biometrics is generally low, 56% to 91% say it is acceptable for the private sector to request a biometric scan when:

Privacy Safeguards a Must

In both waves of the survey, very high majorities considered the following privacy safeguards to be very important if biometrics systems are to be put in place:

"People should be fully informed about the uses an organization will make of their biometric ID and why it is needed"&&.. 89%(2001) 86%(2002)

"Organizations should not use biometric IDs for any purposeother than those originally described to the individual, unless the organization is required to do so by law or each person in the system has been informed and given his or her consent"&& 89%(2001) 88%(2002)

"There should be a procedure so individuals can check to see if their biometric ID formula has been correctly applied and that they can have any rejection of their identity re-examined and verified" &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& 86%(2001) 85%(2002)

"Organizations collecting biometric IDs should automatically code the ID formula and not provide the key to any other organization unless required to do so by law or expressly authorized by the individual" &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& 84%(2001) 84%(2002)

"Except in national security situations, an individual should be told whenever their biometric identifier is being collected it should not be collected secretly" &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&.. 81%(2001) 78%(2002)

"Biometric IDs should not be combined with other personal identifiers" &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& 68%(2001) 66%(2002)

"Organizations should not be permitted to compile records to track when or where persons were identified using their biometric ID" &... 54%(2001) 58%(2002)

Identity Theft Concerns Raise Support for Biometrics

"Identity theft has become the all-American crime of the Information Age. It equally affects the rich and poor, high school to university graduates, men and women, young and old, blacks, whites, and Hispanics. This crime is thriving in cities and suburbs, and in all sections of the nation," said Dr. Westin.

The survey shows a strong link between public concerns over identity fraud and support for the uses of biometrics by both the public and private sectors. More than eight in ten respondents (81%) say they have heard or read about some form of identity theft, such as using stolen credit cards or telephone charge numbers, cashing forged checks, obtaining unauthorized access to confidential computer systems, or applying for government welfare payments to which they were not entitled. Those who have read or heard about identity fraud or theft were higher in rating private sector uses as acceptable than those who were not aware of this crime.

For a copy of the latest issue of P&AB, please contact Irene Oujo at (201) 996-1154 or

About the Survey

"Public Attitudes Toward the Uses of Biometric Identification Technologies by Government and the Private Sector" was commissioned by SEARCH, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and developed by Dr. Alan F. Westin. Telephone surveys were conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) September 18-30, 2001 and August 15-18, 2002, among national probability samples of 1,017 and 1,046 adults 18 and older. The margin of sampling error is +/- three percentage points.

About Privacy & American Business

Privacy & American Business, ( &, is an activity of the Center for Social & Legal Research, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy think tank exploring U.S. and global issues of consumer and employee privacy and data protection since its launch in 1993.

Always on the cutting edge, P&AB was the first to chart and analyze for business the rise of privacy from a second-tier concern to a front-burner issue and to provide opportunities in programs and meetings to assist businesses in understanding the privacy environment as it is evolving. P&AB, a pioneer in recognizing the rise of the corporate privacy officer (CPO), was the first to open its CPO Program in 1999.

The Center and all its activities are led by Dr. Alan Westin, President and Publisher of P&AB; Robert Belair, Partner at Oldaker, Biden & Belair and P&ABs Vice President; and Lorrie Sherwood, P&ABs Executive Director.