Biometric data

Biometric data, such as DNA, fingerprints and custody photographs, has commonly been used in policing for many years.

Rapid advances in the availability of biometric technologies - including facial recognition software, remote iris recognition and voice pattern analysis - offers great potential in the detection, prevention and prosecution of crime.

We want to ensure that this data is used in a lawful, ethical and effective way that respects the rights of individuals, improves police accountability and maintains public trust in the procedures which govern its use.

Biometrics Commissioner

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act created the role of a new independent Biometrics Commissioner.

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act created the role of a new independent Biometrics Commissioner. Dr Brian Plastow took up post in April 2021. 

The Commissioner will:

  • support and promote the adoption of lawful, effective and ethical practices for the collection, use, retention and disposal of biometric data for criminal justice and policing purposes
  • keep under review policy, practice and the law covering biometric data
  • prepare, promote and monitor the impact of a code setting out recognised standards and information on good practice
  • raise public awareness of police powers and duties regarding biometric data

The Commissioner is accountable to Parliament.

The Act responds to recommendations contained in a 2018 report into the use of biometric data by the Independent Advisory Group on the use of Biometric Data.

The Group made nine recommendations to improve the regime governing biometric data.

We consulted on its specific proposals around the establishment of a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner and statutory code of practice covering biometric data and technologies: Enhanced oversight of biometric data: consultation.

The consultation showed broad support for the proposals.

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