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Biometrics Bills Signed Into Law

On May 16th, Governor Inslee signed two biometrics bills into law, 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.

Representative Jeff Morris and Representative Norma Smith were key champions of the bills.  Chief Information Officer Michael Cockrill and Chief Information Privacy Officer Alex Alben testified in favor of these broad protections of biological data.