Biometrics tech needs new law, says QC

June 29, 2022

Rules surrounding biometric technologies are fragmented and fresh legislation is required, according to an independent, QC-led legal review.

Matthew Ryder QC said that the “current legal regime” reagrding facial recognition, fingerprinting, voice recognition and DNA profiling is confused and failing.

Where biometrics were once the preserve of policing, the technology is increasingly used in everyday life.

Schools, shops and employers are using the methods and more advanced tools such as gait analysis, which picks up on walking and posture, are increasingly being used in the security industry.

Matthew Ryder QC, who compiled the Ryder 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 Ada Lovelace Institute, which commissioned the review, stated, as examples, schools using facial-recognition technology to verify students’ identities while paying for lunch or supermarkets marking out dangerous or criminal individuals.

The report suggests better laws and regulation would subject such uses to much greater scrutiny.

An institute spokesman told the BBC: “We can think of this a regulatory ‘whack-a-mole’, which we are arguing is inadequate.”

The institute wants comprehensive laws for biometric technology; oversight by a regulatory body; clear standards on accuracy, reliability, validity and proportionality and a moratorium mass identification or classification in the public sector until new laws are passed.

Police forces including the Metropolitan Police and South wales Police use live facial recognition (LFR) – where a camera system matches faces to a watch-list of offenders.

South Wales was latter successfully challenged in court and in light of that, there must be a legally-binding police code of practice for LFR and all other public should be suspended until there was one covering the private sector.

Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Prof Fraser Sampson, who is expected to react later today, broadly echoed the review call for improvement, saying it needed to be comprehensive, consistent and coherent.

Lady Sally 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.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the Governemnt is “committed to maintaining a high standard for data protection and our laws already have very strict requirements on the use and retention of biometric data.

“We welcome the work of Ada Lovelace Institute and Matthew Ryder QC and we’ll consider the recommendations carefully in due course.”

Laws which influence how biometric data include:

Human Rights Act 1998
UK General Data Protection Regulation
Data Protection Act 2018
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Protection of Freedoms Act 2012
Terrorism Act 2000
Investigatory Powers Act 2016
Equality Act 2010

Biometrics have been defined as a range of methods whereby body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics are captured by sophisticated.
Biometric authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

The pace at which the technology is developing has been causing increasing concerns and has prompted the Ryder Review.

The UK Information Commissioner has said she is “deeply concerned” live facial recognition (LFR) may be used “inappropriately, excessively or even recklessly”.

Commissioner Elizabeth Denham questioned what would happen if it was combined with social media and other big data. There is a “high bar” for LFR where “we shop, socialise or gather”, she said.

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