UK plan to abolish biometrics commissioner greeted with criticism
UK academics Pete Fussey and William Webster have objected to plans to abolish the Retention and Use of Biometrics Commission. Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson also defended the role, submitting both defenses to parliament.
Sampson’s “principal concern” according to his statement, is that “there is no provision for these non-casework biometrics functions and ‘non-data protection’ issues in relation to public space surveillance.”
These plans were outlined in clauses 4 and 5 of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, published May 5, which outlined a framework to police the regulation of the processing of information relating to identified or identifiable living individuals.
The official argues that the bill “does not provide for these matters” and it does not provide a “meaningful plan” for these issues to be addressed if the office were abolished.
The statement contends that other UK statutory bodies, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, may not be able to absorb the responsibilities of the commissioner, as these responsibilities “are not even broadly described anywhere.”
In addition, the statement notes the contentious nature of police accountability when it comes to facial biometric surveillance in the UK, saying “this lacuna is problematic as much for the police themselves as for the communities they serve.”
Fussey and Webster argue that independent oversight of facial recognition is “crucial to public trust” and that “surveillance oversight is historically and currently overburdened and under-resourced.”
The statement also points towards the “unprecedented rate” at which biometric technology is “expanding and diversifying,” casting doubt on whether the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is “future-proofed.”
Police use of facial recognition remains mired in controversy in the UK.
Chris Philp, the UK’s policing minister, reportedly wants facial recognition to be pushed by police forces across the country, despite criticism of some of its applications.