IViR Lecture: Biometrics and the Registration and Authentication of Voters: Is there a Global Trend?

IViR is pleased to announce that
Prof. Colin Bennett
will give a lecture entitled
Biometrics and the Registration and Authentication of Voters:
Is there a Global Trend?

on Friday 23 June 2023

All democratic countries require reliable methods to authenticate the identity of eligible voters. They need ways to ensure that only those eligible to vote are included in official electoral registers and that those who vote on election day are eligible to vote, and indeed, are ‘who they say they are.’ Over time, different democratic countries have relied on a range of methods to support both goals. For more established democratic countries, these systems of voter registration and authentication are rooted in distinct institutional and administrative practices that have strong roots in their political cultures. These practices have important legacies that are resistant to change.

In recent years, however, as a result of various forces, we have witnessed pressures in a number of countries to support or reinforce existing methods of voter authentication with new forms of identification, often based on biometric data. These trends are particularly notable in countries in the global south, where biometric methods are aggressively promoted by the burgeoning biometrics industry. Biometrics are often promoted to advance a narrative that are essential to support the broader rights to vote and participate in democratic affairs.

In this talk, Colin Bennett reviews these trends and outlines the various risks of biometric identification in the electoral context. Those risks relate to privacy, as well as to wider issues of voter discrimination and suppression. Are we going to see increasing use of biometrics in Europe, and other democratic countries for purposes of voter registration and authentication?

Colin Bennett is Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.  For over thirty years, his research has focused on impact of surveillance technologies, and on the comparative analysis of privacy protection governance at domestic and international levels. In addition to numerous scholarly and newspaper articles, he has published seven books on these subjects, including The Governance of Privacy (MIT Press, 2006). He has also worked on policy reports for national and international organizations, including the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the UK Information Commissioner, the European Commission and the Council of Europe. He is currently researching the effects of data-driven elections, and the capture and use of personal data on voters by political parties in Western democracies.

Date: 23 June 2023
Time: 16.00 – 17.30 CET (Amsterdam)
– IViR Room, 5.24, REC A, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam.
– Online via Zoom (you will receive the Zoomlink via e-mail on the morning of the lecture).