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Scotland’s biometrics commissioner finishes decision framework for law enforcement

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement
Scotland’s biometrics commissioner finishes decision framework for law enforcement

Scotland’s first biometrics commissioner has drafted a ‘world-first’ statutory code of practice for the use of biometric data in policing and criminal justice and established a team around himself, and he is now setting out to make people aware of the importance of biometrics and upholding standards for their use, according to an interview for FutureScot.

Less than a year into his eight-year tenure, former police chief Dr. Brian Plastow has concentrated on the ethics around biometrics collection, storage and use in law enforcement in Scotland. His draft statutory code creates a decision-making framework for the police to examine whether a new technology or adaption would be proportionate or lawful.

The draft will go before the Scottish Parliament in the next month and could provide influential elsewhere around the world. Live facial recognition is not legal in Scotland and Plastow is skeptical of some of its use in England and Wales, but does not dismiss it out of hand for Scotland.

If it was reliable, free of bias and independently validated then it could be a useful tool.

Yet the commissioner’s negative views on biometrics use south of the border have been criticized in Scotland, according to FutureScot, as apparently they damage confidence in Plastow’s objectivity. He has also joined the UK biometrics commissioner to state the police use of biometrics is too complex an issue for the current regulator to handle.

The commissioner points out that technology is developing far faster than legislation can be updated, and so a framework for considering the use of new technologies should bring it back to ethical scrutiny in advance.

Plastow has put together a small team of advisors and created a website to explain biometrics and related issues to explain the situation in Scotland to the public. Survey work is determining his direction for how to help Scotland understand, restrict or embrace biometrics.

Ultimately, he says he is hoping to strike a balance between effective policing and respecting human rights.

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