The UK’s National DNA Database Ethics Group has been renamed the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group (BFEG), and will have an expanded focus.
The organization is a public agency charged with advising the Home Office, the government agency responsible for security, law, and immigration. Its rebrand is the result of a Triennial Review of Home Office Science Bodies, and according to a statement on the UK government’s website, its mandate “expands beyond that of its predecessor and includes ethical issues associated with all forensic identification techniques including, but not limited to, facial recognition technology and fingerprinting.”
Many of the ethical issues the BFEG will consider are likely going to echo controversies currently emerging in the US as its border security agencies expand the use of biometric identification. Privacy issues are an obvious concern; but there is also some evidence that facial recognition technologies can be more unreliable when scanning the faces of non-white individuals, a technical problem that could result in racial discrimination in real-world applications. In the UK, such concerns were in fact recently raised when it came to light that the Metropolitan Police would trial facial recognition at a major celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture.
Police and government authorities have long been interested in biometric identification technologies, and that interest is only intensifying as the technology advances, so the expanded mandate of the BFEG seems to be a timely response.
August 18, 2017 – by Alex Perala