Biometric technology began its development in the late 19th century. Since that time it has become a dominant and reliable means of identifying people on the basis of physical characteristics. Since the attacks of 9/11, biometrics has seen a rapid increase in uptake and in technological development.

Our Research

At PREMT, Angus Willoughby is continuing his research from his visiting scholarship at the College of International Security Affairs on the applications of biometric technologies in the surveillance context.

The research explores different conventional and emerging biometric technologies. Further, the research examines the particular surveillance programmes and legislative schemes in different countries that adopt biometrics as a surveillance tool, and share biometric data between government agencies. The project also examines the military applications of biometrics, such as for base security, target acquisition or ISR.

Angus’ research also contemplates privacy, and its protection under international and regional human rights law frameworks. In light of recent Snowden leaks, the UN General Assembly and human rights bodies have expressed concerns about intrusive and indiscriminate state surveillance and the effect such surveillance has on fundamental rights and freedoms. The nature and increased use of biometrics suggest that those concerns also apply to biometrics.