In contemporary Massachusetts, biometric technology has become commonplace. Prevalent across the commercial, financial, and even military sectors, Massachusetts companies now lead the entire nation in technology licenses. Furthermore, over the past four years, patents for companies in the Bay State rose 37 percent, making it the second most patent-hungry state in the union under California.
It should come as no surprise that Massachusetts also has a budding biometric sector. Major players in voice recognition, fingerprint scanning, and biometric software services and product manufacturing are all headquartered in Massachusetts, providing services to high-profile global clients like the U.S. Navy to the Saudi family. Massachusetts also publicly funded the nation’s premier iris scanner, which is now currently being used by a sheriff’s office in the city of Plymouth.
Amid all the excitement and advancement, however, there is one demographic that is widely and publicly distrusting of this new era of tech: employees.
The complaints issued by employees regarding biometric security are numerous and deep-rooted. Unregulated. Unnecessary. Invasive. Many employees also fear that the influx of new biometric security measures amplifies the risk that a sweeping data breach could allow one’s inherent personal information to fall into the wrong hands. Case in point: you can always get a new credit card. Getting a new iris is far trickier.
Massachusetts lawmakers, in an attempt to end the problems before they start, have already erected laws to protect citizens from “unreasonable, substantial or serious interference” with privacy. The goal isn’t just to put workers at ease — an employee, disgruntled or not, can seek monetary damages if he or she feels that an employer improperly used or intruded on personal, identifying information.
But what exactly is “improper use” of biometric data? Such questions have lawmakers in other states wary of the biometric movement. For example, in New York, companies cannot even fingerprint employees unless mandated by law. New Hampshire considered a similar law to limit the use of biometric data but eventually struck it down.
With so much potential in tech-savvy Massachusetts, it would be a mistake to curtail biometric progress in its golden age. The fact of the matter is that in our contemporary society, security is a larger concern than ever. Biometric safeguards will be tomorrow’s necessity as we phase out archaic security means like passwords and key cards. We should welcome this new change warmly.