Biometrics Commissioner unimpressed by UK Home Office's strategy for the tech

Paul Wiles says the Home Office Biometrics Strategy is "short-sighted at best"

Independent Biometrics Commissioner Paul Wiles has slammed the newly released Home Office Biometrics Strategy, describing it as "short sighted" and "an oversight."

The government's Biometric Strategy outlines how biometric technology will be integrated into the country's immigration systems, law enforcement and terrorism prevention. It explains how the technology is being used now and how this will change in the future as the need arises, including the use of existing fingerprint systems in more scenarios.

Wiles, who was appointed Biometrics Commissioner in 2016, believes the strategy doesn't go far enough and that it merely outlines what's already in place rather than how the Home Office will ensure new platforms and tech is introduced to safeguard UK citizens against crime - whether on a national or international scale.

"It is disappointing that the Home Office document is not forward looking as one would expect from a strategy," said Wiles, in a statement on Thursday. "In particular it does not propose legislation to provide rules for the use and oversight of new biometrics, including facial images."

He compared the government's strategy to Scotland's, saying legislation has already been proposed north of the border, but the UK's strategy isn't at all defined.

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"Given that new biometrics are being rapidly deployed or trialled this failure to set out more definitively what the future landscape will look like in terms of the use and governance of biometrics appears short sighted at best," Wiles added.

"What the strategy does propose is an oversight and advisory board to make recommendations about governance just short of legislation," Wiles continued. "If that results in the development of a set of principles to inform future legislation then it is also welcome. However, the advisory board is mainly described as concerned with the use of facial images by the police."

He advised that what is needed is an entire framework that applies to all biometric projects, not just an ad hoc approach, where solutions are found as problems arise. This framework would provide a much more efficient use of resources and ensure the UK remains to be innovative in emerging technologies.

Image: Shutterstock

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