UK govt taken to task over biometrics strategy
29 May 2018 10:23 GMT

British MPs in a committee have bemoaned the delay of a biometrics strategy and criticised the government’s approach to the retention of innocent people’s mugshots.

In a report released this week, the Science and Technology Committee also called on the government to upgrade its IT systems so images are automatically deleted if the person is not convicted.

“The Government’s approach is unacceptable because unconvicted individuals may not know that they can apply for their images to be deleted, and because those whose image has been taken should not have less protection than those whose DNA or fingerprints have been taken,” the report said.

“There are important ethical issues involved in the collection, use and retention of facial images in particular because they can easily be taken and stored without the subject’s knowledge and because various image databases already include 90% of the adult population between them.”

There are currently around 2.5 million images on the Police National Database, which police forces can search, using facial recognition software. According to figures from the Press Association, between February and October 2017, only 67 people asked to have their images deleted.

It also took aim at the delays in forensic biometric strategy.

"It is now more than four years since the Government originally promised to produce a strategy on biometrics. The Minister has now told us that the Biometrics Strategy will be published in June this year.

"This report flags up issues that the Biometrics Strategy should take on board. We also take the opportunity to review the situation in forensics services, 18 months after our predecessor Committee’s report on the Forensics Strategy.

"The Government should review the sustainability of the forensics market as part of a wider review of its Forensics Strategy, including the underlying causes of market unsustainability and fragmentation".