The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office has laid out a three-year plan with respect to its mandate, and it includes some oversight concerning the use of biometric technology.
The plan, dubbed “ICO25”, is broad in scope, with the Office announcing that its main objective in creating the plan was to outline why its work is important, what the office ‘wants to be known for and by whom’, and how it attends to achieve those goals by 2025.
As for the plan itself, it has four strategic objectives. As UKAuthority points, out, its aims are:
- To safeguard and empower people.
- To facilitate responsible innovation to promote economic growth.
- To promote accountability and transparency.
- And to develop the ICO’s own culture and capabilities.
All that having been said, so far as biometric technologies are concerned, it seems that the ICO will not be overseeing all of the most consequential applications of the tech. The UK government had previously considered adding some police oversight responsibilities to the ICO’s mandate, but the move was opposed by the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Fraser Sampson, who argued that the ICO’s focus on privacy didn’t sufficiently cover all of the relevant considerations concerning law enforcement’s use of biometric tech. Ultimately, the government dropped the idea, leaving the oversight of DNA and fingerprint technologies to Sampson’s office.
The latter is itself a relatively recent product of bureaucratic evolution. The UK government decided a little over a year ago to combine the offices of the Biometrics Commissioner and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, appointing Sampson, a former police officer, to the newly created role.
For its part, the ICO will take aim at controversial use cases for biometrics that may concern matters of fairness and discrimination.
“While these biometrics have immense promise, we also need to be alert to risks – especially around emotion recognition technologies which can discriminate against certain vulnerable groups,” the ICO25 plan states. “We will be working with industry to set out our expectations on how these technologies should be used and investigating how these technologies are being deployed for any adverse impacts on vulnerable groups.”
The ICO’s willingness to work with industry organizations on establishing appropriate regulatory frameworks opens an opportunity for vendors to help shape policy recommendations. In the US, a White House Executive Order issued in May asked various government organizations to research the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement organizations and to draft reports, prompting the International Biometrics & Identification Association to call on the White House to ensure that it is allowed to express industry views as part of these studies.
July 15, 2022 – by Alex Perala