Policing emerging technologies report: Scottish Government response

Our response to recommendations made in a report by the Independent Advisory Group on Emerging Technologies in Policing.

Recommendations for the Scottish Government

Recommendation 12

Whilst significant legislative gaps were not found, Scottish Government (and where appropriate the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner) should keep the legislative landscape under review and consider whether future technological deployments (such as Live Facial Recognition and certain applications of AI, e.g. in predictive policing) would benefit from the introduction of statutory codes of practice to provide greater clarity and safeguards. The possibility that certain applications of some technologies in policing should be categorically prohibited should be considered by Government.

Scottish Government response

The advisory group noted that no significant legislative gaps exist at this time, but we are mindful that technologies in policing can evolve rapidly. The Scottish Government  will continue to liaise with Police Scotland, SPA and other stakeholders to ensure that we are implementing our policy, which is to ensure that the approach taken to new technology should be lawful, effective and proportionate.

We recognise that a number of considerations arise for the police when considering the deployment of new technology, and are happy to discuss with them the merits of creating statutory codes of practice, which would be in addition to the other measures they currently take to provide assurances - such as Data Protection Impact Assessments.  We wish to ensure that the technologies landscape, and the safeguards attached, continue to be at the forefront of any discussions in this area.

We are not aware of any current applications of new technologies in policing that present the high degree of risk that the group’s recommendation refers to. However, we agree that the position must be kept under review given the pace of technological innovation. It may be the case that the statutory codes of practice mentioned above – or a new framework - could set standards for ethical, legal and safety requirements which any future technology would have to meet. This would enable public scrutiny and transparency ahead of the deployment of new technology. Any decisions around the content of such a code or framework would be taken following engagement with relevant policing bodies and wider stakeholders. The publication of standards which have been agreed following broad consultation may therefore avoid the need for Government to consider prohibiting the application of certain technologies in many, if not all, cases.

Recommendation 13

The Scottish Government should take the learning from the ‘Draft Proposals for Oversight of Ethical Considerations in Policing’ and consider endorsing a similar approach to enhancement of the Scottish Public Finance Manual as good practice across all public bodies in Scotland.

Scottish Government response

We will review our approach to the Scottish Public Finance Manual (SPFM) internally to see if any learning can be gained from the ETIAG’s work, especially around the possible adoption of an Ethics Case to enhance current SPFM guidance.

The SPFM is issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance on the proper handling and reporting of public funds. This includes Section 6: Appraisal and evaluation which incorporates The Green Book and specifically the business case guidance within.

The Five Case Model contained within The Green Book, does not only apply to business cases relating to new and emerging technology in policing, but is  used widely when considering different types of policies, strategies, programmes and projects across Scotland.

The ETIAG’s work reviewing the Five Case Model via the Oversight, scrutiny and review workstream,  indicated that there are currently limited opportunities to assess the ethical implications of business cases which relate to new technology proposals. It is suggested that the addition of a sixth case - the ‘ ethics case’ - should be used in a proportionate way,  with an independent triage process being  introduced to understand whether there are ethical implications that need to be discussed and addressed, thereby focusing resources towards areas of higher risk. This would allow the proposer to consider the impact of change on a variety of aspects of ethics - including human rights,  individuals, society and  public confidence.

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