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Scottish Biometrics Commissioner welcomes Ryder Review, could oversee prisons

Chief Inspector of Prisons ‘would welcome oversight’ of biometric technologies
Scottish Biometrics Commissioner welcomes Ryder Review, could oversee prisons

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Dr. Brian Plastow says he welcomes the publication of an independent review into biometric data and technologies in England and Wales.

The new report, compiled by Matthew Ryder QC on behalf of the Ada Lovelace Institute, urgently calls for new laws and better regulations.

“More than 20 years ago, English law took a wrong turn in relation to the regulation of biometric data,” reads the document. “That misstep took over a decade to rectify, and the law surrounding biometric data has struggled to stay current and effective ever since.”

In particular, the document makes various recommendations and comments in favor of the development of a legal framework in Scotland, which includes the legislative requirement for a statutory code of practice.

“A legally binding code of practice governing the use of LFR [live facial recognition] should be published as soon as possible,” reads the report.

“We consider that a specific code of practice for police use of LFR is necessary, but a code of practice that regulates other uses of LFR, including use by private entities and public-private data sharing in the deployment of facial recognition products, is also required urgently.”

Commenting on the report, Plastow called the document a “very insightful and well considered” piece.

“[It] makes a really valuable contribution to ongoing debates in the UK and internationally about biometric data and technologies, including how best to correctly balance the needs of the state with the rights of private citizens.”

Scottish Chief Inspector of Prisons welcomes regulation of biometrics

Scottish Chief Inspector of Prisons Wendy Sinclair-Gieben said she would welcome oversight from Plastow in regards to how biometric data and technologies are used in Scottish prisons.

According to an article by Holyrood, Sinclair-Gieben highlighted human rights considerations when suggesting the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner oversaw the potential new technology in prisons.

For context, there is currently no general independent oversight of how biometric data and technologies are being used in Scottish prisons, with the UK-wide Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) covering other aspects.

“From recent discussion with […] Sinclair-Gieben, I can confirm that with the exception of oversight by the ICO on matters connected with data protection, and by the IPCO on covert surveillance, there is no general independent oversight in relation to how biometric data and technologies are overtly used in Scottish prisons,” Plastow said.

“I am advised by HM Chief Inspector that she would welcome the oversight by my office if approved by Scottish Ministers given both the specialist subject nature and human rights considerations which arise.”

Plastow added that he thinks it would be appropriate for Ministers to consider whether biometric data and technologies used in prisons across Scotland should fall within the remit and functions of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner and Code of Practice.

“Should Scottish ministers wish to explore this possibility in more detail, then I would be more than happy to engage with Scottish Government officials and the Scottish Prison Service in terms of conducting an initial joint feasibility study,” Plastow concluded.

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