Commissioner’s annual report for 2019 has been published alongside the UK government's response
The Biometrics Commissioner has published its annual report for 2019 alongside the UK government's response. The Commissioner says that compliance across law enforcement agencies with the requirements of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is generally good with a high level of commitment from all law enforcement agencies.
The Commissioner points out that two recent Home Office changes have had significant consequences for the policing use of biometrics:
The number of properly conducted policing trials of new biometrics and AI-driven analytics needs to increase to provide the evidence base that will be needed to make future decisions about the best new technology for policing. A standard trials methodology is needed.
Exploration by the police of the new biometric technologies and AI-driven analytics has been unnecessarily dampened by the failure of the Home Office to provide governance, leadership and re-assurance to support such work.
New legislation will be needed to bring these new technologies into a governance framework, and the Commissioner welcomes the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment on this matter.
Given the importance of these new technologies more generally in public and private sectors the public needs to be more engaged in a debate about what they regard as acceptable uses. Ministerial leadership would be welcomed by the Commissioner on this.
The biometric provisions of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 that are due to come into force shortly are likely to improve the consistency of decision making in relation to National Security Determinations.
UK government response
The UK government welcomed the report saying that it wants to empower the police to safely use new biometrics within a strict legal framework. It said that regarding the issue of more trials and data analytics, the Policing Minister announced in January that funding will be made available for a Police Chief Scientific Adviser and investment in science, technology and research.