House approves Smith’s bill to regulate collection and use of biometric data by state agencies

Rep. Norma Smith’s bill to regulate the collection and use of biometric data by state agencies was approved by the Washington State House of Representatives Thursday. Under House Bill 1717, state agencies would be prohibited from obtaining a “biometric identifier” without first providing notice of the purpose and use of the identifier, as well as receiving consent from an individual.

A biometric identifier is defined as any information converted, stored or shared based on an individual’s retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry.

In all circumstances, state agencies would be prohibited from selling the identifier, and identifiers would not be eligible for disclosure under the Public Records Act.

“When it comes to an individual’s most personal data, their irreplaceable biometric data, we must establish strong sideboards around when it’s allowed to be collected and used by state agencies,” said Smith, R-Clinton. “Ensuring our citizens’ privacy and data is respected and safeguarded is a critical function of our state government, and I’m encouraged we’re taking this step as a state to do that.”

Under Smith’s bill, any state agency — state office, department, division, bureau, board, commission, or other agency, not including general-authority law enforcement — that wishes to collect a biometric identifier must:

  • Receive affirmative consent prior to collecting biometric identifiers;
  • Establish security policies that ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the identifiers;
  • Address the identifiers in privacy policies;
  • Tailor retention schedules to the purpose of collecting the identifiers;
  • Only retain the identifiers necessary to fulfill the original purpose and use;
  • Minimize the collection and retention of the identifiers; and
  • Design a biometric policy to minimize the collection of biometric identifiers.

House Bill 1717 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.


Washington State House Republican Communications