Avoiding terminological confusion between the notions of 'biometrics' and 'biometric data': An investigation into the meanings of the terms from a European data protection and a scientific perspective

Catherine Jasserand

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This article has been motivated by an observation: the lack of rigor by European bodies when they use scientific terms to address data protection and privacy issues raised by biometric technologies and biometric data. In particular, they improperly use the term ‘biometrics’ to mean at the same time ‘biometric data’, ‘identification method’, or ‘biometric technologies’.

Based on this observation, there is a need to clarify what ‘biometrics’ means for the biometric community and whether and how the legal community should use the term in a data protection and privacy context.

In parallel to that exercise of clarification, there is also a need to investigate the current legal definition of ‘biometric data’ as framed by European bodies at the level of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

The comparison of the regulatory and scientific definitions of the term ‘biometric data’ reveals that the term is used in two different contexts. However, it is legitimate to question the role that the scientific definition could exercise on the regulatory definition. More precisely, the question is whether the technical process through which biometric information is extracted and transformed into a biometric template should be reflected in the regulatory definition of the term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Data Privacy Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • privacy
  • data protection
  • biometric data
  • terminology
  • biometrics
  • International Standard ISO/IEC 2382–37

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