Scottish Parliament backs plan for oversight of police use of biometric data

Legislation to create a Biometrics Commissioner, who will oversee how policing bodies take, store, use and dispose of data such as fingerprints, DNA samples and facial images, has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Mar 11, 2020
By Paul Jacques
Humza Yousaf

Once in force, the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill will ensure that the police’s approach to biometric data, including the potential use of new technologies such as facial recognition software, is carried out in a lawful, effective, proportionate and ethical way.

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The role of biometrics is increasingly important in how crime is investigated, detected and prosecuted in Scotland. This legislation will ensure quality and consistency in how biometric data is collected, used, retained and destroyed by policing bodies.

“It is important that we equip Scotland’s police officers with the necessary technology to ensure they can continue to keep people safe. At the same time, it is important that the public has absolute confidence in those technological advances and how their data will be collected or retained.”

The Biometrics Commissioner will prepare a code of practice to provide guidance and information on good practice for obtaining, using, holding and destroying biometric data for Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

The Bill, approved by MSPs, will also establish a complaints procedure for members of the public who may have concerns about how their data is being collected, held, disposed of and used, and an independent advisory group to provide advice to the Commissioner.

The legislation was drafted based on the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group’s 2018 report on the use of Biometric Data.

The role and remit of the Commissioner will be reviewed every five years to ensure the legislation and processes keep up-to-date with technological advances.

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