The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is backing the creation of a new post for a biometrics commissioner, however they are calling for greater powers to be granted to the position to ensure that personal data is kept safe and privacy is protected.
MSPs on the committee concluded that the need for a biometrics commissioner to oversee the use of the technology and to look after the data gathered was necessary, though they expressed concern that, as it is proposed, the position would not be flexible enough to deal with future methods of biometric surveillance and data collection.
Traditional methods of biometric data collection like the taking of fingerprints are quickly being surpassed by both passive and active facial recognition, both of which are becoming more common throughout the U.K.
In Scotland, passive facial recognition is currently being used in the analysis of images captured by CCTV cameras and their comparison against a U.K.-wide Police National Database. Active facial recognition has yet to be implemented in the country, however Police Scotland has stated they expect to begin trialing the technology once the biometrics commissioner post has been filled.
The committee also said that the commissioner should have oversight over biometric data collected by police forces operating in Scotland such as the British Transport Police and the National Crime Agency, and not just Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority as is currently proposed.
“While Members welcome the creation of a biometrics commissioner, the committee has identified some important areas where the legislation needs to be strengthened,” said Justice Committee convener Margaret Mitchell.
“To ensure the commissioner has the necessary teeth and oversight to protect privacy effectively, the committee wants to see stronger enforcement powers and other policing bodies added to the commissioner’s remit before their office is created,” she added.
The use of biometric surveillance technologies by police forces has been a controversial issue in recent months, with some government authorities restricting its use.
December 10, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis