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Scot committee likes Biometrics Commissioner’s data ideas; suggests he expand vision

Scot committee likes Biometrics Commissioner’s data ideas; suggests he expand vision

Having drafted a code of practice for biometric use by three Scottish law enforcement agencies earlier this month, that nation’s Biometrics Commission is being encouraged to think bigger.

Brian Plastow, Scotland’s biometrics commissioner, reported to the Criminal Justice Committee about his proposed codes for acquiring, retaining, using and destroying biometric identifiers by law agencies.

Committee members particularly liked Plastow’s 12 guiding principle and ethical considerations proposed in April for Police Scotland, the Police Authority and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

The committee has responded with a number of questions and recommendations based on the report.

They asked broad questions in their email, but they also queried about more tactical matters. For example, they wanted to know if Police Scotland could use biometric data if it was gathered prior to presumed new law.

Committee members wanted Plastow’s perspective on the fact that Scotland has no surveillance camera commissioner, which creates a management and oversight gap for facial recognition. Should there be a commissioner for video surveillance?

Also, should the commission work with the United Kingdom Border Agency and Security Service on biometric practices?

In discussing other areas of government, the Criminal Justice Committee was not asking so much as they were recommending that Plastow expand is sphere of control. He should consider a formal relationship with other criminal justice bodies including the Scottish Prison Service.

“Your oversight of biometric data held by the [prison service] would, we believe, be appropriate,” they wrote. The agency is sprawling and collects great amounts of personal data.

But the commissioner should not stop there, either, according to Criminal Justice Committee members.

The Biometrics Commission should have binding input into British Transport Police, the National Crime Agency and the Ministry of Defense Police.

It could get contentious. Some Scottish schools, for example, process payments for lunches using facial recognition. And there were complaints in January when the government instituted free public bus rides for people under 22 years old who also enroll in the service with a face scan.

Any decisions on expanding the Biometrics Commission’s portfolio would have to work their way up to the Scottish Parliament.

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