Handling biometric data

Independent group to consider how police use information.

The way facial imaging and other biometric data is used to investigate crime is being reviewed.

The independent advisory group, chaired by John Scott QC, will consider human rights and ethical considerations of how biometric data is captured, used, stored and disposed of.

They will advise on the right legislative framework, governance and oversight for biometric data and whether a code of practice is needed. It is expected to deliver its conclusions by the end of the year.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“At a time when police use of biometric and related technologies is increasing, this work aims to bring certainty to and maintain public confidence in police use of this data to investigate crime and protect the public.

“The group will provide expert advice taking account of the HMICS recommendations on use of facial search technology, making sure we strike the right balance between safeguarding the public and the rights of individuals when we decide how biometric data should be used in future.”

Mr Scott said:

“This is a timely review in an important and fast-developing area. Scottish rules on retention of biometric data have been the subject of positive comment elsewhere, notably from the European Court of Human Rights when it looked at equivalent English rules in 2008. It is appropriate to consider if we are still getting the balance right, especially as there are new types of biometric data being used by our police, courts and prosecutors.

“I look forward to working with the expert advisory group which includes key individuals, practitioners and academics, in policing, prosecution, human rights, ethics and data protection.

“In addition to the use and retention of facial images, we will look at questions which may arise with developing types of biometric data in the hope that we can establish principles informed by relevant ethical and human rights considerations to inform the delicate balancing exercise involved.”


Biometric data gathered from technology like CCTV and road camera enforcement systems is used in a wide range of police work to identify and rule out suspects, and to find missing people.

Membership of the advisory group includes Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office and also includes academic and research expertise.

John Scott QC recently led the creation of a new code of practice for police powers of stop and search.

More information about the Independent Advisory Group on the Use of Biometric Data, including a full list of members.

The advisory group will take account of the HMICS Audit and Assurance Review of the use of Facial Search functionality within the UK Police National Database.


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