McArthur: Report confirms biometrics legislation required

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today said the Scottish Government must now bring forward legislation regulating the use of biometrics, after a second independent expert report echoed the party's call for stronger governance and independent oversight.

It has been three years since a Liberal Democrat investigation triggered concerns about how the police use new and emerging biometric technologies such as facial recognition. As a result, HMICS was asked to conduct a review and its report two years ago recommended reforms.

Now an Independent Advisory Group, led by John Scott QC, has:

  • unanimously agreed that a new legislative framework for the use of biometrics "was not only desirable but necessary";
  • called for a Code of Practice for Police Scotland and the SPA "covering the acquisition, retention, use and disposal of DNA, fingerprints, facial and other photographic images (including custody images) and all existing, emerging and future biometrics".
  • recommended legislation to establish a new independent Biometrics Commissioner, overseeing the use of such data in policing and criminal justice, with the potential for expansion into health, education and the private sector;

Mr McArthur commented:

"It has been three years since a Scottish Liberal Democrat investigation first exposed the gaps in biometrics legislation and the potential for misuse. While biometrics can prove critical in investigating and solving crime, this new report is further evidence that the laws regulating their use urgently require updating.

"Biometric technologies which draw on our personal characteristics are becoming an ever greater part of all our lives. They are emerging at an incredible rate but we need to ensure our laws keep up and that people's rights aren't infringed. That is why we need regulate the use of existing technologies and future proof them to cover those systems that won't have even been invented yet.

"It shouldn't have taken the Scottish Government three years to get to this point. Ministers must immediately get on with preparing the necessary changes to the law."

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