Biometric data privacy bill the result of bipartisan work

OLYMPIA – Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Morris is the first of its kind in the country to protect individual privacy rights associated with biometric identifiers.

Morris (D-Mt. Vernon) is chair of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, and has made privacy rights protection a priority.

“New technology is allowing businesses to discretely track your every move, which gives them more information to market to you and to other businesses,” Morris said. “Most of the time consumers are unaware this is happening. We need to get ahead of this technology by putting common sense restrictions in place to protect people’s privacy.”

Biometric identifiers use data to identify specific individuals. Simply put, biometrics are measurements of a person’s physical being. Facial recognition, gait analysis, voice-print reading, and even keystroke data are simple biometric ways to identify individuals. These identifiers are increasingly being used to authenticate individuals in a wide range of digital applications.

The measure would forbid businesses from obtaining, or selling, biometric information from individuals without their consent.

Morris credits bipartisan collaboration as a key factor in the bill’s movement, including the work of Rep. Mark Harmsworth (R-Mill Creek), who sits on the TED Committee.

“We wanted to make sure we got this right. Rep. Harmsworth, as well as others, worked hard on this issue. Our collaboration made this bill as strong as possible,” said Morris.

“Companies collecting people’s most personal private data, fingerprints, iris scans, or even how they walk, need to be held accountable,” said Harmsworth. “They need permission to collect this information, use it properly, and keep it secure. People have a fundamental right to privacy, it’s incredibly important the proper protections are put in place.”

House Bill 1493 passed the House and the Senate with nearly unanimous support and now heads to the governor for signature. The bill prohibits companies and government agencies from gathering specific biological characteristics without notifying or obtaining permission from someone. Additionally, it restricts agencies from using, sharing, or reviewing any person’s biometric data.

“I want to extend my sincere thanks to Rep. Morris, who really took the lead on this project,” continued Harmsworth. “We worked in a very bipartisan fashion to get this done, and I believe it has given us a better result.”

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