New biometrics laws urgently needed, review finds

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New biometrics laws urgently needed, review finds
A stock illustration of facial recognitionImage source,

New laws governing biometric technologies are urgently needed, an independent legal review led by Matthew Ryder QC has found.

Biometric data includes faces, fingerprints, voices, DNA profiles, and other measurements related to the body.

Technologies using this data, such as live facial recognition, are increasingly common.

But the review found rules in England and Wales were fragmented, unclear and had not kept up with technology.

Biometric technologies, it noted, previously used almost exclusively in policing, are now used by a growing number of private and public organisations, including employers, schools and shops.

More novel tools such as gait analysis, which looks at distinctive features of how people walk, or key-stroke analysis, based on how people type, are also being deployed.

In a separate paper the Ada Lovelace Institute, which commissioned the review, cited a number of examples of how biometric technologies were being used:

Better laws and regulation would subject such uses to much greater scrutiny before deployment, it says.

And none of those giving evidence to the review thought the current legal framework fit for purpose.

A range of laws influence how biometric data can be collected and used, including the:

Matthew Ryder QC, who wrote the review said: "The current legal regime is fragmented, confused and failing to keep pace with technological advances.

'We urgently need an ambitious new legislative framework specific to biometrics.

"We must not allow the use of biometric data to proliferate under inadequate laws and insufficient regulation."

The institute is now calling for changes including:

The review also made several recommendations concerning live facial recognition (LFR) - where a camera system matches faces to a watch-list.

A number of police forces have deployed LFR including the , and South Wales police - the latter .

The review said a legally binding police code of practice governing LFR use was needed.

And all other use in public should be suspended until there was one covering the private sector.

'Sound regulation'

Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Prof Fraser Sampson echoed the report's call for improvement, saying it needed to be comprehensive, consistent and coherent.

Lady Hamwee, who chairs the Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said: "The current uncoordinated and confusing arrangements are inadequate.

"Biometric technologies have huge potential.

"They need an essential component - public trust and confidence, which in turn needs sound regulation."

LotterryTreasure News has approached the government for comment.

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