March 11, 2020

Campaigners welcome the creation of a Commissioner to oversee use of biometrics by Police in Scotland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Following the news that the Scottish Parliament has voted in favour of creating a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner, Matthew Rice, Scotland Director, Open Rights Groups said:

It has been a long time coming but we applaud the Scottish Parliament have voted to create a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner. Scotland deserves modern, effective institutions and when it comes to the collection, retention and use of our sensitive biometric data, the challenge has never been greater. Open Rights Group have been leading the campaign for this over the last three years and we are delighted to see such a successful result.

While facial recognition dominates the headlines we should recognise that biometrics is way more than that, from fingerprints and DNA to new generation biometrics such as iris, and gait recognition. This institution will have a vital role to play in ensuring that biometric data of all types from all people is underpinned by a lawful framework that respects the fundamental right to privacy. 

The Commissioner will have a significant role to play in making sure that biometrics data is underpinned by proper rules and that the public are fully informed and engaged in a debate about what is acceptable use of biometrics in Scotland. Open Rights Group wishes them all the best in this challenge and welcome their addition to the Scottish environment.

NOTES TO EDITORS  

Open Rights Group have been campaigning for the creation of a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner since 2017, having submitted evidence to the Independent Advisory Group on the use of Biometrics in Scotland. 

https://scotland.openrightsgroup.org/policy/2017/09/29/regulating-the-use-of-biometrics-across-scotland/

A consultation by the Scottish Government was held and Open Rights Group ran a campaign to generate responses to demonstrate the public interest in creating an institution.

https://action.openrightsgroup.org/building-genuine-biometrics-oversight-scotland

The Scottish Government subsequently committed to establishing a Commissioner in their legislative programme for 2018-19.

The Commissioner will create a binding code of practice that applies to Police Scotland, they will have powers to issue compliance notices requiring Police Scotland to change practices and policies, it will also establish an individual complaints mechanism allowing for members of the public to raise concerns about the use of their biometrics directly to the Commissioner for them to investigate.