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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
16 August 2022
Scotland set to be world first for biometric data Code of Practice

Facial recognition camera

Scotland set to be world first for biometric data Code of Practice

Scotland will become the first country in the world to have a statutory Code of Practice on the use of biometric data for policing and criminal justice by the end of the year, it has emerged.  

In a new letter, justice and veterans secretary Keith Brown told Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Dr Brian Plastow that his draft Code of Practice on the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland has been approved by the Criminal Justice Committee, without amendment.  

The Code of Practice will be brought before the Scottish ministers on 7 September and, if the code is approved without any unforeseen issues, it will be brought into effect in or around 16 November.  

This comes after HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, said that she “would welcome oversight” from the Biometrics Data Commissioner on the issue earlier this year.  

There is currently no general independent oversight of how biometric data and technologies are being used in Scottish prisons, except for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which looks at data protection, and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, which oversees covert surveillance.

Plastow commented in an earlier letter to the convenor of the Criminal Justice Committee that he would be interested to know if facial recognition was being used in Scottish prisons, like it is currently at a handful in England and Wales.  

Plastow told Holyrood: “Scotland will become the first country in the world to have a statutory Code of Practice on the use of biometric data and technologies for policing and criminal justice purposes. This will be a significant human rights achievement for Scotland.

“The benefit to policing is that the Code addresses current gaps in legislation and provides a ‘statutory guide and framework for professional self-assessment and decision-making’ by the bodies to whom the Code applies to assist them in current and future decisions around the adoption of new and emerging biometric applications and technologies. This would include for example issues such as mobile biometric solutions which have not yet been introduced in Scotland.”

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