How Hundreds of Terror Suspects’ Biometric Profiles Were Deleted

A new report from the UK’s Biometrics Commissioner is highlighting the complexities of managing biometric data. In the particular case of Alastair MacGregor QC’s investigation, it has become apparent that the records of hundreds of individuals suspected to be terrorists  have been deleted, due in large part to technical issues.

How Hundreds of Terror Suspects' Biometric Profiles Were DeletedCurrent legislation requires that biometric data collected from individuals not formally charged with a crime must be deleted within six months, unless police authorities obtain a ‘National Security Determination’ (NSD), a special status that can be assigned to individuals deemed to be particularly dangerous. Because police failed to obtain these NSDs within the allotted time frames, the biometric records of 810 suspected terrorists were deleted, 108 of whom would “undoubtedly” have warranted NSDs, according to MacGregor.

The report follows up on issues raised by the Biometrics Commissioner in a report from earlier this year, with MacGregor again validating concerns he had expressed as far back as 2014 over how legal restrictions on data management can hinder police efforts. But while this latest report has provoked an outcry from numerous public officials, some have questioned the legitimacy of police powers enabling the collection of such data in the first place; as The Guardian reports, human rights group Liberty has called special legislation allowing police to search individuals at ports of entry “breathtakingly broad and intrusive”.

In any case, police authorities have been working with the Biometrics Commissioner to address his concerns, and MacGregor says that he is “now broadly satisfied that proper steps have been and are being taken” to change police procedures so that these kinds of mass data deletions can be prevented in the future.

Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph, Reuters

May 27, 2016 – by Alex Perala