Identities & liberties

Our work

Ensuring equity in biometric technologies

Seizing on pressing public debate, technological developments and legal challenges, in our Identities & liberties programme we will explore public expectations and legal regulation of biometric data and related technologies, in light of emerging capabilities such as facial recognition technologies.

In September 2019, the Ada Lovelace Institute carried out the first UK survey of public attitudes to facial recognition technology, Beyond Face Value. Responding to citizen concerns, we led the call for a moratorium or pause in the use and deployment of facial recognition technology, which has now been echoed by a diverse range of organisations from the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, the Financial Times and AI Now.

Across 2020 we are running a one-year programme to identify and articulate the conditions by which biometric technology could be deployed with to the benefit of people and society.

We are conducting two forms of research to feed into this:

  1. Deliberative public engagement to explore whether, and under what circumstances, biometrics technologies could be deployed with public legitimacy. We are running the UK’s first Citizens’ Biometrics Council. This will see 60 members of the public engaged in an in-depth deliberative process across several months, tasked to articulate what an informed public’s expectations, conditions for trustworthiness and red-lines are, when it comes to the use of biometric data. A series of Community Voice workshops are feeding into the design and outcomes of the Citizens’ Biometrics Council. These Community Voices workshops are with groups identified from the research as having distinct concerns about these technologies: BAME, LGBTQ+ and people who are disabled or neurodiverse.
  1. An Independent Review of the Governance of Biometrics Data. The Ada Lovelace Institute has commissioned Matthew Ryder QC to lead this review, with an advisory group, which will examine the existing regulatory framework and identify options for reform that will protect people from misuse of their biometric data, such as facial characteristics, fingerprints, iris prints and DNA. This will report its findings in October 2020.

Drawing on these two discrete types of research, Ada will develop and advocate for the specific policy, governance and regulatory environment needed to manage the use of biometric technologies in ways that support individual liberties, collective rights and public voice in the deployment of new technologies.

Find out more:
-> Read about our project A public health identity? Health status apps, immunity certificates and biometrics – part of our work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
-> Read about the Independent Review of the Governance of Biometrics Data
-> Read about the launch of the Independent Review and watch speeches from the Review Chair Matthew Ryder QC and other speakers
-> Read about the Citizens’ Biometric Council
-> Download our report: Beyond Face Value: Public attitudes to facial recognition technology
-> Contact the Identities & liberties team