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Rights groups urge Scotland to grant Biometrics Commissioner broad oversight mandate


A coalition of rights advocacy groups has called on Scotland’s government to expand the scope of the proposed biometrics commissioner position, Scottish Legal News reports.

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill is currently before the Holyrood Justice Committee, which asked for input on the scope and enforcement powers of the role.

Open Rights Group, Amnesty International Scotland and Big Brother Watch wrote to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to urge that the intended oversight of law enforcement be expanded to cover all public and private organizations, while welcoming the proposal to create the position.

“The debate about the proportionate and ethical use of biometrics is occurring in multiple sectors and the focus on the collection, retention, use and deletion of biometrics solely in law enforcement is blind to the realities of the use of biometrics today. Biometrics are being used in the fields of health and social care, immigration and asylum, even education… Each of these applications raise separate questions of rights, morals and ethics,” the letter argues, according to Scottish Legal News.

The letter refers to a recent deployment of facial recognition at King’s Cross in London, and a fine levied against a Swedish school under GDPR among examples of the technology’s adoption beyond law enforcement.

“Scotland deserves modern, effective institutions that are in a position to respond to today’s challenges and remain in a position to meet tomorrows. Biometrics has applications far beyond law enforcement and sectors are already adopting these technologies in their operations,” Open Rights Group Scotland Director Matthew Rice told Scottish Legal News.

“This is an opportunity for Scotland to lead the governance of biometrics at a time when the issue raises a great deal of public concern. We hope the Scottish government seize that opportunity and meet the public’s clear need for stronger governance in this area.”

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