New code to govern Scotland’s biometrics use

Retention of DNA, fingerprints and images by Police Scotland will be governed by a new code of practice.

Mar 22, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

An independent advisory group has recommended several changes to how biometrics data is used by the national force.

The group has proposed a code to manage acquisition, retention, use and disposal of this information and the creation of an independent Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to oversee compliance.

It also suggested encouraging a ‘national debate’ to improve public confidence in how biometrics data is used.

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald said: “Biometric data, particularly DNA, fingerprints and photographs, is a critical tool in the investigation and prevention of crime. We recognise the importance of ensuring that the public has trust and confidence in the procedures which govern its use.

“Any endeavour to strengthen the legislative framework and provide a balance between keeping the public safe from harm whilst ensuring the appropriate consideration of human rights and ethics is welcomed.”

The independent advisory group was commissioned by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson last year to examine use of biometric data.

Its report found there are more than 633,000 images of roughly 362,000 people stored on Police Scotland’s databases, alongside a million custody photographs that originally belonged to the eight legacy forces.

Some of these images had been on records for up to seven years, while biometrics data is destroyed if no further proceedings against the individual involved.

Mr Matheson said: “While the creation of a new biometrics commissioner to monitor compliance with a new code will require careful consideration and discussions with the parliamentary authorities, it is one that we accept in principle.

“The public should continue to have confidence in how their information is held and I hope that the publication of this report will kick-start a wider debate on biometric data and how it is best used to help keep our communities safe.”

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