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Virtual Symposium Connects Biometric Surveillance Experts and Community

May 3, 2022

The UC Merced Community and Labor Center invites the public to the Biometric Surveillance, Immigration and Labor Virtual Symposium on Friday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Two panels of law experts and community organization representatives will explain the use of biometric surveillance technologies — such as facial recognition, fingerprinting, DNA collection and more — in immigration and labor contexts, and answer questions from attendees.

The goal of the symposium is to raise awareness about these surveillance tactics among public advocacy organizations and policymakers, then connect experts with people in the community.

"We need greater public discussion on the rapid proliferation of surveillance technologies and how they target our most vulnerable communities," said Professor Meredith Van Natta, with the Department of Sociology.

Undocumented immigrants, immigrant workers and low-wage workers are targeted by these technologies that are getting more embedded in systems, government agencies and workplaces especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Van Natta. Therefore, the panelists will discuss people's rights and how they can protect themselves, as well as the ethical and policy issues that should be addressed.

Van Natta has conducted research on the use of DNA and other biometrics in immigration processing. She has also written about the ethical concerns raised by a proposed rule from the Trump administration to expand biometric data collection from migrants and U.S.-citizen sponsors. The proposed rule was not implemented.

The symposium is free and open to everyone. Real-time Spanish interpreting will be available. Anyone interested in taking part in the event is asked to register online.