Report address MPs’ concerns about UK government not providing guidelines on biometrics usage

March 9, 2015 - 

In the UK’s Science and Technology Committee new report titled “Science and Technology – Sixth Report: Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies“, MPs address their concerns regarding the UK government’s failure to introduce proper legislation to regulate the increasing use of biometric data.

In the report, MPs discuss a number of key topics of concern, including how the police are allowed to acquire and store biometric data about those individuals who have not been charged for any crimes, as well as the growing trend of banks using biometric data to identify their clients.

The report also highlights a few key biometric technologies, such as Barclays’ blood-reading finger vein authentication and Apple Touch ID fingerprint recogntion in the iPhone 6 and 6 plus.

The three future trends in the application of biometrics are the growth of unsupervised biometric systems, accessed via mobile devices, which verify identity; the emergence of “second-generation” biometric technologies that can covertly authenticate individuals; and linking biometric data with other types of ‘big data’ in an effort to profile individuals.

Though the committee sees the obvious benefits in the use of biometrics, it also points out the many potential risks and explains how the government has not pragmatically considered how these risks and benefits will be regulated and communicated.

In the report, the committee emphasizes the implementation of an “effective regulation and a clear strategy” in order to ensure the effective use biometric technologies and to reduce any possible risks.

The MPs said that the government’s failure to publish a proper biometrics strategy is having significant consequences which are “leaving a clear gap in legislation.”

“Management of both the risks and benefits of biometrics should have been at the core of the Government’s joint forensics and biometrics strategy,” said Andrew Miller MP. “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.”

According to the report, there is an inherent need to develop public trust in biometric data and technologies. The committee recommends “that the government sets out how it plans to facilitate an open, public debate around the use of biometrics.”

The Biometrics Institute, which promotes the responsible use of biometrics to address privacy and data protection, welcomed the committee’s report.

The Biometrics Institute has been working on its Trust Mark certification program since November that it is intended to reassure the public of the responsible use of biometrics, and will make privacy compliance more transparent and easier to understand.

In its original submission for the program, the Biometrics Institute emphasized the importance of educating the public that not all biometrics are the same and that they are not infallible.

The Institute’s Biometric Vulnerability Assessement Expert Group (BVAEG), which is set to meet in October in London, is raising awareness about potential flaws in biometrics and researching new ways to resolve these issues.

Finally, the Institute has developed a universal Biometrics Institute Privacy Guideline to serve as a fundamental guide for managers to plan for an effective privacy regime. The group is hoping to work with the UK government using these guidelines and other resources it has developed.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.