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UK needs new biometrics strategy: Scotland Biometrics Commissioner

UK needs new biometrics strategy: Scotland Biometrics Commissioner

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner wants the UK government to reset its biometrics strategy and develop a framework for national biometrics interoperability with independent oversight.

An article by Dr. Brian Plastow was published in the UK Security Journal explaining why he thinks a shift is needed to manage expected changes in the technology and how it is used, in particular by UK police.

The announcement of the call also sets out his opposition to recent plans from the previous government to share passport and driving license images with police so they could be matched with facial recognition and to eliminate the Biometrics Commissioner position in England and Wales. His opposition to both changes has been previously registered. Plastow is also in the midst of a dispute over the legality of Scotland police using U.S.-based cloud computing services to share biometric evidence.

The UK Home Office’s Biometrics Strategy document was published in 2018, and has not been refreshed, Plastow notes.

Meanwhile a report published by The Alan Turing institute’s Centre for Emerging Technology and Security (CETaS) in March suggests that the types of biometrics available to UK police will grow dramatically over the next five to ten years. “The Future of Biometric Technology for Policing and Law Enforcement: Informing UK Regulation” refers to the development of more behavioral biometrics and multimodal systems.

“The research reinforces my own view that the UK’s legal framework (and strategy) for biometrics is inadequate and in need of reform principally because it is failing to keep pace with rapid changes to biometric technology,” Plastow writes. “The research also highlights evidence of public anxiety over the adequacy of safeguards to protect individuals from a range of risks, such as data misuse and the discriminatory implications of certain ‘novel’ emerging use cases.”

Along with addressing these risks, a new national biometrics strategy and interoperability framework could help the government improve public services, border security and criminal investigations, he says, citing Australia as an example.

Plastow says the Biometrics Institute’s “Three Laws of Biometrics” can provide a basis for the strategy the UK needs.

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