The Future of Biometrics and Liberal Democracy

Marcus Smith, Seumas Miller

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


The first part of this chapter considers future biometrics, with a focus on second generation biometrics that measure physiological patterns. The second discusses the potential biometric future – how the use of biometrics, data and algorithms more broadly, could be used by governments to regulate social and economic interactions. This discussion will draw on the development of credit systems, from those used in commercial online platforms to rate the performance of providers and users, to the more integrated and all-encompassing social credit system (SCS) implemented in China, as an example of a potential future development in liberal democratic countries. Finally, we discuss the key features of liberal democratic theory and how biometric and related technological developments may change governance in western democracies. While we briefly mention some relevant developments in the private sector, our main focus will be on the relationship between liberal democratic governments and their security agencies, on the one hand, and their citizenry, on the other. We describe in general terms how liberal democracies might respond to these new technologies in a manner that preserves their benefits without unduly compromising established liberal democratic institutions, principles and values. Accordingly, we seek to offer a response to some of the dual use ethical dilemmas posed by biometrics, albeit in general terms.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpringerBriefs in Ethics
EditorsMarcus Smith, Seumas Miller
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030902568
ISBN (Print)9783030902551
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameSpringerBriefs in Ethics
ISSN (Print)2211-8101
ISSN (Electronic)2211-811X


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