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UK Parliamentary Committee blasts Home Office over biometrics database, strategy delay


The UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee has slammed the approach of the Home Office to retaining images for facial verification, as well as its delays in formulating and publishing a biometrics strategy. In a damning report on “Biometrics strategy and forensic services” (PDF), the committee calls on the government to not only publish the long-awaited biometrics strategy, but also to reassess and revise the 2016 Forensics Strategy which underpins police use of facial recognition technology.

The report refers to Big Brother Watch research indicating a 2 percent successful match rate for the police facial recognition system, and suggests that the market for private forensics providers is unsustainable, either because of testing fragmentation, or causing it. It also calls for the forthcoming biometrics strategy to consider how the database of images should be maintained and regulated, and proposes the job could be given to a dedicated regulator or the Biometrics Commissioner.

The committee calls the explanations given for the delay of the biometrics strategy “less than convincing,” and also says Home Office should upgrade its IT systems to enable automatic image deletion.

“The Government’s approach is unacceptable because unconvicted individuals may not know that they can apply for their images to be deleted, and because those whose image has been taken should not have less protection than those whose DNA or fingerprints have been taken,” the report says.

Home Office minister for biometrics Baroness Williams suggested in April that the agency would upgrade its technology “in the medium term”. She also previously said that the biometrics strategy, which was initially due in 2014, will be published in June.

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