Opinion: Biometric studies with our children are invasive, says Potsdam man
My grandson, a pre-K student at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School, came home with a form for participation in a study approved and implemented by Clarkson University. The goal of the study is to collect biometric data on children and to track how biometrics change as the children grow.
The biometric measurements being collected include fingerprint, footprint, iris, wrist/palm vein geometry, voice and facial recognition! Biometric data is increasingly being used by security, employers, even your cellphone to identify who you are and by extension where you are and what you’re doing, whether you are aware of it or consent to it or not.There are a number of things about this request that I find disturbing. I am concerned that the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Clarkson would approve such a blanket invasion of privacy and recruit children through the public school system. The research and data would be available governmental, industrial, law enforcement and military agencies specifically involving the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FBI, Aetna, biometric vendors, health insurers and financial institutions.
Affiliate researchers of the Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), for example, Homeland Security, would have access to demographic data which include such sensitive information as ethnicity, country of birth, and native language.
I am a scientist and supporter of academic research, however there must be constraints to protect the individual subjects and society. Although the documentation for the study suggests “benefits” for the participants, the principal beneficiaries are likely commerce, industry and government. That “the information collected will be kept confidential as much as possible” is clearly disingenuous, given that it will be “made available to other research groups.” Our rights to privacy and anonymity in our daily lives need to be protected.
We must to be careful not to accept and normalize casual use and access of sensitive personal information. While there can be coding to hide the specific identities of participants, increasingly, information that is gathered is available in perpetuity and accessible to hackers.
Giving access to our most personal data, our unique individual body identifiers, for the sake of research exposes us to potential abuse of our liberties. This study raises too many red flags for me to consider it ethical or desirable.
Needless to say, my grandson will not be participating. I encourage those who have been asked to participate to decline, get further information and contact the Clarkson Institutional Review Board, [email protected] .
Jeffrey Feld, MD