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Lack of legislation cause of “governance gap” in use of biometric data

The Parliamentary Science and Technology Commons Select Committee (opens in new tab) has claimed there is a “governance gap” in the use of biometric data.

According to the group of MPs, Whitehall has failed to respond strategically to the increasing use of the type of data and so Police have been collecting this information without proper oversight.

“As we struggle to remember ever more passwords and pin number in everyday life, the potential benefits of using biometric technology to verify identity are obvious,” claimed the Committee’s chair Andrew Miller (opens in new tab).

“However, biometrics also introduces risks and raise important ethical and legal questions relating to privacy and autonomy.

“We are not against the Police using biometric technologies like facial recognition software to combat crime and terrorism, but we were alarmed to discover that the Police have begun uploading custody photographs of people to the Police National Database and using facial recognition software without any regulatory oversight – some of the people had not even been charged,” Miller added.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO (opens in new tab)), the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (opens in new tab) does not extend to photographs and no specific legislation covers their retention and use by the Police.

Action Should Have Been Taken Sooner

The Science and Technology Committee are concerned that this legislation gap has been known about for a while, but the statutory responsibilities of the Biometrics Commissioner have not yet been extended to cover the Police use of this type of data.

“Management of both the risks and benefits of biometrics should have been at the core of the government’s joint forensics and biometrics strategy,” claimed Miller.

“In 2013, my Committee was told by the government to expect the publication of a strategy by the end of the year.

“We were therefore dismayed to find that, in 2015, there is still no government strategy, no consensus on what it should include and no expectation that it will be published in this Parliament,” he added.