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First-ever biometric code of practice now active in Scotland

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement
First-ever biometric code of practice now active in Scotland

The Code of Practice (CoP) governing the use of biometric data including DNA in criminal justice in Scotland is now officially active.

Approved by the nation’s Criminal Justice Committee in August, the code regulates how law enforcement can acquire, retain, use and destroy residents’ biometric data for criminal investigations.

Additionally, the 12-point code, mulled since at least June, embeds a complaints system against the unlawful use of biometric systems by the police and ensures compliance via enforcement powers.

The new legislation is the result of an agreement, including ethical considerations, among Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

Dr. Brian Plastow, Scotland’s Biometric Commissioner, collaborated with the forces mentioned above on the CoP. Last month, Plastow published an analysis suggesting Parliament should be confident in how biometric data and technologies are being used for policing and criminal justice purposes in Scotland.

“It is important to strike the right balance between allowing Police Scotland to do what is required to keep people safe and to protect the human rights of the public,” Plastow says, commenting on the CoP coming into practice.

“From today, Scotland is the first country in the world to have a national code of practice which gives guidance to the police on how biometric data and related forensic technologies can be used,” the Biometric Commissioner adds, as quoted by Holyrood.

According to Cabinet secretary for justice and veterans Keith Brown, the presence of a Biometric Commissioner in Scotland will be paramount in ensuring that the CoP is enacted ethically and responsibly. Scotland first debated biometric scanning in 2017.

“The Code of Practice prepared by the Commissioner symbolizes Scotland’s progressive approach to biometrics, particularly in policing and criminal justice,” Brown tells Holyrood.

“I endorse the new code and support the Commissioner’s endeavors to promote high standards, transparency and accountability.”

Scotland is also currently working on a public engagement project on the development of a new digital identity system.

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