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Scotland commissioner calls for expansion of biometric data oversight to justice system

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement
Scotland commissioner calls for expansion of biometric data oversight to justice system

Today, Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Dr. Brian Plastow published a report encouraging Scottish Ministers to consider extending oversight powers and the protections provided by the Scottish Code of Practice to all criminal justice agencies.

Currently, the Commission oversees only policing bodies’ use of biometric data including DNA, fingerprints, and photographs. But this data is used extensively in prisons, criminal prosecutions, and multi-agency management arrangements for violent and sexual offenders, a statement from the commissioner notes.

“These agencies, and policing, all work closely together and sit within the same ministerial portfolio, so it is my view that the goal should be for them all to be the subject of independent oversight,” says Commissioner Plastow in a release.

Such a change would bring independent oversight to biometric data within multi-agency sharing initiatives like the Digital Evidence Sharing Capability.

The commissioner finds “compelling evidence” for the expansion of the commission’s powers to include the collection, storage, and destruction of biometric data collected by the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police, and Ministry of Defense Police.

In the months ahead, the commission will carry out a review of images and photographs held on multiple databases.

The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act of 1995, the main piece of legislation that allows for the collection of biometric samples from those who have been arrested, contains no specific legal provision relating to the use of images held by police.

The commissioner says “there are grounds to be confident about the security of biometric data used for policing purposes in Scotland,” noting that surveys of the public’s perceptions of the use of biometrics reveal “high levels of public confidence and trust.”

The Code of Practice gives individuals the power to submit complaints if they believe the Scottish Police Authority or the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner have misused their data. He claims that so far, there have been no complaints submitted under the code.

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