Amendments to UK data protection bill could give more power over biometrics to police
The UK government is planning to introduce changes to its data protection laws giving counter-terrorism police more power over biometric data.
According to the new amendments to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, counter-terrorism police will be able to hold on to the biometric data of individuals who pose a potential threat as long as an Interpol notice is in force. The change will put the UK’s regulation in line with Interpol’s own retention rules.
The amendments will also ensure that police can indefinitely retain biometric data of individuals who have a foreign conviction, in the same way as is already possible for individuals with UK convictions.
“My priority is to continue cutting crime and ensuring the public is protected from security threats,” Home Secretary James Cleverly said in an announcement of the amendments published Thursday.
“Law enforcement and our security partners must have access to the best possible tools and data, including biometrics, to continue to keep us safe,” he adds.
The amendments to the bill will be considered in Parliament next week. In the meantime, the changes could invite criticism.
After the UK government moved to replace the EU GDPR following Brexit with the Data Protection and Digital Information bill, it also decided to eliminate the office of the office of Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (BSCC).
In October, a report from the government-backed Centre for Research into Information Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP) warned that the move could leave Britain without proper oversight of the technologies. The commissioner’s office is planned to be replaced with a “Forensic Information Database Strategy Board.”
The government describes the new amendments as “common sense changes” that will bolster national security and prevent fraud as well as “realize new post-Brexit freedoms.”
Aside from the changes in biometric data handling, the amendments propose cracking down on benefit fraud by obtaining new powers to require data from third parties, particularly banks and financial organizations. Another proposal wants to require social media companies to keep any relevant personal data in the case of a child’s suicide. Current rules mean that social media companies aren’t obliged to continue holding onto this data.