Governor signs Smith bill to better protect Washingtonians’ data and privacy

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, to regulate the collection and use of biometric data by state agencies was signed into law by the governor Tuesday. Under House Bill 1717, state agencies will be prohibited from obtaining “biometric identifiers” without first providing notice of the purpose and use of the identifiers, 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.

Under no circumstances will agencies be authorized to sell biometric identifiers. Additionally, identifiers will 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. “Ensuring our citizens’ data and privacy is respected and safeguarded is a critical function of our state government. I want to thank the state’s chief privacy officer, Alex Alben, for working so diligently with me on this bill. I’m encouraged we’ve taken yet another step forward today in establishing our state as a leader in the area of data and privacy protection. We will continue to stand with the people on this key issue.”

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

  • Receive affirmative consent prior to collecting the 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 the identifiers.

House Bill 1717 will go into effect later this year.


Washington State House Republican Communications