Scottish Government launches biometrics review

Independent group to consider how the country’s police service uses biometric data

The Scottish Government has announced an independent review into the way police use facial imaging and other biometric data to investigate crime.

FingerprintAn independent advisory group, chaired by John Scott QC, will consider the human rights and ethical considerations of how the data is captured, used, stored and disposed of.

Its members will include representatives from Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office, along with experts from academia and the research community.

The review will include an investigation of how data gathered from technology such as CCTV and road camera enforcement systems is used, and take account of the HMICS Audit and Assurance Review of the use of Facial Search functionality within the UK Police National Database.

It will aim at providing advice on the relevant legislative framework, governance and oversight and whether a code of practice is needed. It is expected to deliver its conclusions by the end of the year.

Need for certainty

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “At a time when police use of biometric and related technologies is increasing, this work aims to bring certainty to and maintain public confidence in police use of this data to investigate crime and protect the public.

“The group will provide expert advice taking account of the HMICS (HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland) recommendations on use of facial search technology, making sure we strike the right balance between safeguarding the public and the rights of individuals when we decide how biometric data should be used in future.”

Scott said: “Scottish rules on retention of biometric data have been the subject of positive comment elsewhere, notably from the European Court of Human Rights when it looked at equivalent English rules in 2008. It is appropriate to consider if we are still getting the balance right, especially as there are new types of biometric data being used by our police, courts and prosecutors.”

Image from Jan Kalab, CC BY 2.0 through flickr