How Should We Think About Biometric Privacy Harms?

56 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2018

Date Written: November 24, 2018


Central to understanding biometric privacy is the question of biometric privacy harms. How much do people value biometric privacy, and what evils should biometric privacy laws seek to avert? This Article addresses these questions by surveying a nationally representative sample to determine what does, and does not, worry people in the context of biometric privacy. The results show that many people are deeply concerned about biometric privacy in the consumer context; that they are less comfortable with monitoring and check-in procedures that employ biometrics; and that they are willing to sacrifice real benefits to preserve biometric privacy. Further, those who are concerned with biometric privacy attribute their concern to a variety of factors, including many that are not directly related to data security. In addition to security issues, participants also raise concerns about public tracking, dignity violations, and the possibility of unforeseen downstream consequences of biometric data collection. This broad approach to biometric privacy harms justifies much more extensive privacy regulation than a narrow focus on data security, and therefore has substantial implications both for future legislative consideration as well as current standing litigation.

Keywords: privacy, biometric privacy, facial recognition, law and psychology, class action

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Kugler, Matthew B., How Should We Think About Biometric Privacy Harms? (November 24, 2018). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 18-25; Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 18-20. Available at SSRN: or

Matthew B. Kugler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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