UK Security Camera and Biometrics Commissioner discusses proposed role changes

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That the right to life and not to be subjected to degrading treatment are linked to police uses of biometrics, but not protected by data privacy regulations should be obvious and uncontroversial. The UK Surveillance Camera and Biometrics Commissioner, however, felt compelled to make the point in a blog post reacting to the suggestion, hidden at the end of a lengthy government consultation, that the roles of the two Commissioners could be integrated with that of the Information Commissioner. Office (ICO).

Fraser Sampson expressed serious doubts about reducing all biometrics surveillance and surveillance camera regulation to data protection concerns in an interview with Biometric update Last week.

Sampson notes that the current biometric problems facing the UK include “an act of Parliament telling police what to do if they want to take a suspect’s boot print, but which says nothing on the massive capture of facial images, leaving the police frustrated and the public perplexed “, the unintended consequences of the shift to” voluntary presence “in police stations as a substitute for arrest, and” the urgent need to reform the collection and matching of samples by the police ”.

A police biometrics official told Sampson that the situation “is doing our victims and our agents a disservice.”

The public consultation provides a necessary opportunity for public debate, according to the blog post, but the consultation does not address the issues identified by the commissioner.

He reviews many of the same arguments he made in discussions with Biometric updateincluding that the Office of the Biometrics Commissioner is not technically a regulatory body, but rather makes quasi-judicial decisions on police biometrics deployments and data retention. In Scotland these are dealt with by a judge, but in England and Wales the commissioner renders the judgment and then reports to Parliament, adding a layer of transparency to the process.

Perhaps most puzzling about the proposal is its contrast to the government’s own findings from an inquiry by the House of Commons Special Committee on Science and Technology, which recommended after hearing from the Biometrics Commissioner and the ICO in 2015 that the statutory responsibilities of the Biometrics Commissioner be extended. Scotland has expanded the role of its own Biometrics Commissioner in the manner advised by the committee, but this is not mentioned in the new consultation.

“This consultation should have provided a rare opportunity to pause and consider the real issues we talk about when we talk about responsible use of biometrics and police surveillance, a chance to craft a legal framework that either a planned response to the identified requirements rather than a retrospective reaction to the identified shortcomings, but it is a missed opportunity, ”writes Sampson.

The ICO recently released its own response to the proposal, but declined to advocate or explicitly oppose the suggested sweeping biometrics oversight change.

Articles topics

biometrics | video surveillance | data protection | policemen | confidentiality | regulation | surveillance | UK


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