In keeping with a nationwide trend of laws aimed at protecting and informing consumers about when businesses use their biometric information, New York State is considering pending legislation targeting this very information. The “Biometric Privacy Act” has the potential to affect consumers throughout the State of New York. Here’s what you need to know.
REQUIREMENTS FOR BUSINESSES
“Biometric identifiers” are considered to be retina or iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, or scan of hands or face geometry. The Law prohibits private entities from collecting, capturing, purchasing, receiving through trade, or obtaining this type of information from consumers without notice of the collection, the reasons for collection and time frame of storage, and release of the consumer. It also prohibits private entities from attempting to profit from the transfer or sale of biometric information, and requires notice and consent of the consumer for its disclosure in conjunction with a financial transaction, or enforcement of a law or warrant/subpoena. All entities storing such information are required to use reasonable care.
Financial institutions and contractors, subcontractors, or agents of a state agency of local government when working for that state agency of local government are exempt. It also exempts to admission or discovery of biometric identifiers with regard to actions in court or before any tribunal, board, agency, or person.
PENALTIES FOR NONCOMPLIANCE
The law provides a private right of action for violations of this act. A prevailing party, for each violation, can recover:
- $1,000.00 or actual damages, whichever greater, for negligent violations;
- $5,000.00 or actual damages, whichever greater, for intentional or reckless violations;
- Reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, including expert witness fees and other litigation expenses, and potential other relief, such as an injunction.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
If the New York State Legislature passes this bill, businesses and other private entities in New York State will have to take additional steps to notice you when your biometric information is being used, and they are prohibited from selling your information. In an age of massively expanding markets for data, laws such as this are meant to protect the individual from harmful and intrusive business practices, and this is only the latest in a series of biometric identifier litigation that already exists in the country, including Illinois and New York City.