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UK government grants one-year extension for biometric data retention law review


In a legislation document issued on Tuesday, the UK government announced it has extended the timeframe for a review into which biometric data can be kept on file by law enforcement agencies.

The move comes a week after the UK’s Home Office is considering increasing the regulations for retention of face recognition records, following criticisms from privacy advocates that claim police are illegally uploading photographs on a national database.

The government said the one-year extension of the Protection Of Freedoms Act 2012 covering Destruction, Retention And Use Of Biometric Data is needed because London police have not finished reviewing the biometric data, and it is worried that the information may have national security implications.

“The Metropolitan Police Service, who are completing this review on behalf of national Counter Terrorism policing, have made good progress in reviewing this material but will not have completed the review by the expiry of the transitional period on 31st October 2015,” according to the document.

“This instrument therefore extends the transitional period for a further year until 31st October 2016 to provide sufficient extra time for the completion of this review. It is considered necessary to extend this transitional period to rule out the possibility of being required to destroy material in respect of which an NSD [national security determination] may otherwise have been made.”

The retention and use of biometric data by UK law enforcement has been a hot button issue for quite some time.

In December, UK Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material Alastair MacGregor QC published a report stating that the DNA and fingerprint samples of foreign crime suspects were being deleted from British databases because police are not allowed to retain the biometric data of offenders convicted abroad.

In the report, MacGregor emphasized that measures must be taken in order to end a state of affairs that “puts the UK public at unnecessary risk,” as the biometric data of foreign criminal suspects could play an important role in detecting crime.

Lord Michael Bates responded to MacGregor’s report in March, stating that UK police are only allowed to retain the DNA profiles and fingerprints of foreign criminal suspects if certain conditions are met.

The UK government is also looking into legislation that extends the types of arrest following which police can retain biometric data, according to the legislation document.

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