Biometric Information Privacy

In early March, NNEDV was notified by the World Privacy Forum about an effort that is underway in Illinois to strip essential biometric privacy protections. NNEDV and the Illinois Coalition have since been coordinating efforts to oppose this move. The privacy protections being threatened are a model for other states and should be replicated, not undermined. You can learn more about biometric data and about what's happening in Illinois below. 


In 2008, Illinois passed a landmark bill titled the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. BIPA, as it is known, was specifically aimed at protecting critical biometric data such as “retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry.” Several states have followed Illinois’ leadership and passed similar laws, however Illinois still stands alone in not only protecting against the misuse of biometric information, but also providing a private right of action, which allows individuals to personally sue entities such as corporations for failure to inform and obtain consent before collecting, capturing, purchasing, or receiving biometric data.

BIPA is an important law for anyone who is interested in privacy and security, but it is especially important for vulnerable individuals like survivors of domestic violence. Many survivors of domestic violence are forced to flee abusive relationships and to change their identities in order to protect themselves and their children. While a name or social security number can be changed, there is no way for most individuals to change biometric information. It is unique and once compromised cannot be fully protected. For survivors of domestic violence who regularly experience identify theft and who may need to protect their information in order to stay safe, BIPA is an essential tool in helping survivors to make smart decisions about what information to share. BIPA requires entities to inform people about their collection practices, to obtain written consent before collecting, and to have processes to destroy biometric information that has been collected in a reasonable time. These safeguards are essential and can actually save lives.

BIPA is currently under attack. A new bill has been introduced in an attempt to peel back the protections afforded under BIPA in large part to protect companies from lawsuits for failure to comply with BIPA’s important privacy protections. The use of biometric data is increasingly common and we know that it will continue to be an important part of many aspects of commerce, including how companies oversee human resources. While there may be a way to balance the changing needs and practices of companies with essential privacy rights, the current bill to modify BIPA is far from reaching an appropriate balance. While the bill would still protect against the sale of the biometric information, it would otherwise completely gut BIPA exempting nearly every single business in Illinois.


The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) believes that BIPA is an essential law to protect biometric data and is especially important for survivors of domestic violence. If you agree, please contact Senators Bill Cunningham, Chris Nybo, and Napoleon Harris, III and file a witness slip in opposition to the bill. A link to the witness slip can be found here. When filling out the slip, make sure to check Record of Appearance Only, under the section entitled “IV. Testimony.”