ICO Warns Against Biometric Emotion Analysis Tech

Biometric technologies that analyse a person’s emotions are ‘immature’ and may never work, warns data protection watchdog

The ICO is warning organisations to steer clear of biometric technologies that aim to measure emotion, saying these are “immature” and may never work.

“Organisations that do not act responsibly, posing risks to vulnerable people, or fail to meet ICO expectations will be investigated,” the ICO said in a statement.

Biometric technologies that analyse a person’s gaze, facial movement, gait, heartbeat, facial expressions and skin moisture are increasingly being combined with artificial intelligence for a range of applications.

biometric dataEmotion analysis

But the ICO said that while many uses of biometrics are legitimate, such as for identifying a person, the emotion analysis has a greater risk of resulting in bias or discrimination.

“The inability of algorithms which are not sufficiently developed to detect emotional cues, means there’s a risk of systemic bias, inaccuracy and even discrimination,” the agency said.

It said examples of such technologies include monitoring workers’ physical health with wearable screening tools or using visual and behavioural methods such as body position, speech, eyes and head movements to register students for exams.

Deputy commissioner Stephen Bonner said the risks of biometrics and emotion AI currently outweighed the opportunities.


“We are concerned that incorrect analysis of data could result in assumptions and judgements about a person that are inaccurate and lead to discrimination,” he said.

“As it stands, we are yet to see any emotion AI technology develop in a way that satisfies data protection requirements, and have more general questions about proportionality, fairness and transparency in this area.”

He said the ICO would continue to scrutinise the market, identify those seeing to create or deploy such technologies while explaining the importance of data privacy and compliance.

The ICO is preparing guidance on the broader use of biometrics that is scheduled for publication in the spring of next year.