Following unanimous support by Ministers of Scottish Parliament after a debate last Thursday, Humza Yousef, Scotland’s Justice Secretary, said that a biometrics commissioner would instil confidence in the general public that their biometric data would be used in a “lawful and ethical” manner.
In his address to the Scottish Parliament, Yousaf spoke of the plans to create the independent position that would oversee how data collected from biometric technology would be used by the police and criminal justice system.
“Given the explosion in biometric data and technologies in recent years, it is all the more important that we have an independent commissioner who will lead a national conversation about rights, responsibilities and standards,” said Yousaf.
He added that the new legislation currently under debate would need to find a balance “between keeping communities safe, respecting the rights of the individual and improving the accountability of the police”.
Yousaf went on to say that if the proposed bill were to become law, the role of the commissioner would be to “support and promote the adoption of lawful, ethical and effective practices in relation to collection, use, retention and disposal of biometric data in the context of policing and criminal justice.”
Though he didn’t go so far as to say the commissioner would have the power to enforce any rules themselves, Yousaf did say that they would be able to “name and shame” organizations that failed to abide by them or provide requested information.
Responses to the justice secretary’s statements to Parliament have been optimistic, but cautious in light of on ongoing debate on the issue.
“We will support the principles at stage one and I look forward to cross-party collaborative work going forward to drive improvements into the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill,” said Conservative MSP Liam Kerr.
Labour MSP James Kelly said, “I think there are issues that have come out in the Justice Committee’s report around the scope of the commissioner’s role, the powers that they have and access, and I hope the Cabinet Secretary takes on board some of the views that have already been expressed.”
Kelly went on to say that he has confidence that if appropriate changes weren’t made during the next stage of debates, MSPs from all parties would bring forward their own amendments to strengthen the Bill.
January 13, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis