U.S. Adult Perspectives on Facial Images, DNA, and Other Biometrics

IEEE Trans Technol Soc. 2022 Mar;3(1):9-15. doi: 10.1109/tts.2021.3120317. Epub 2021 Oct 18.


Applications of biometrics in various societal contexts have been increasing in the United States, and policy debates about potential restrictions and expansions for specific biometrics (such as facial recognition and DNA identification) have been intensifying. Empirical data about public perspectives on different types of biometrics can inform these debates. We surveyed 4048 adults to explore perspectives regarding experience and comfort with six types of biometrics; comfort providing biometrics in distinct scenarios; trust in social actors to use two types of biometrics (facial images and DNA) responsibly; acceptability of facial images in eight scenarios; and perceived effectiveness of facial images for five tasks. Respondents were generally comfortable with biometrics. Trust in social actors to use biometrics responsibly appeared to be context specific rather than dependent on biometric type. Contrary to expectations given mounting attention to dataveillance concerns, we did not find sociodemographic factors to influence perspectives on biometrics in obvious ways. These findings underscore a need for qualitative approaches to understand the contextual factors that trigger strong opinions of comfort with and acceptability of biometrics in different settings, by different actors, and for different purposes and to identify the informational needs relevant to the development of appropriate policies and oversight.

Keywords: DNA; ethics; face recognition; law; privacy; technology social factors.