Sony’s dog “Aibo” Teaches Us Biometric Data Privacy

Credits- IEEE Spectrum

As heart-warming as it might be watching the $2,900 Sony’s robot dog scuttle around the house or the office, Aibo has been officially banned from being sold in the state of Illinois.

The robot pup is a companion dog created by Sony, according to whom, the metal pup “learns its environments and develops relationships with people.” It even enlists a camera hidden in its nose for easy identification of people according to which the robot pup will know how to behave with whom.

Because of this face detection capability, Sony has been banned from selling Aibo in Illinois. The Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPC) regulates the collection of biometric data along with face scans.

So, that is out of the land of Lincoln. But the story doesn’t stop at Sony’s quirky robot companion dog. Illinois has also limited the access of face detection technology in home security camera, a feature that is becoming quite the trend in the consumer security market.

Illinois Law

The Biometric Information Privacy Act was established in 2008 to regulate “the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, and destruction of biometric identifiers and information.” BIPA defines biometric data identifiers as retina scanning, face scans, iris scans, fingerprint scans, and so on.

Which basically translates to the fact that an individual or a company has to have written consent before using someone’s biometric data.

Terry Link, the State Senator for Illinois’ 30th district introduced the Senate Bill 2400 on 14th February 2008 to protect the biometric data of Illinois residents.

A Sony support page titled “Why is Aibo not for sale in Illinois?” simply states:

“Due to state regulations and policies, the Aibo robotic companion is not for sale in Illinois. In order to mimic the behavior of an actual pet, an Aibo device will learn to behave differently around familiar people. To enable this recognition, Aibo conducts a facial analysis of those it observes through its cameras. This facial-recognition data may constitute “biometric information” under the law of Illinois, which places specific obligations on parties collecting biometric information. Thus, we decided to prohibit the purchase and use of Aibo by residents of Illinois.”

While Sony simply opted for the prohibition of the selling of the face-detecting Aibo, companies like Nest, sell their facial recognition-enabled cameras in Illinois, with the feature disabled.

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