Parliament Committee to examine case for personal data tsar


The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has today launched a call for evidence on new Scottish Government proposals to create a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.

‘Biometric data’ covers personal information including physical, biological, physiological or behavioural identifiers. This Commissioner would be tasked with overseeing the use of such data by Police Scotland or the Scottish Police Authority.

These organisations currently use this sort of information to help them prevent, detect and fight crime – from traditional techniques such as fingerprinting to rapidly developing and new technology, like voice pattern analysis.

It is envisaged that the main purpose of the Commissioner would be to consider the ethical and human rights implications of such technologies. In particular, how authorities will collect, use, store and dispose of biometric data safely, and to promote compliance with the guidance set out.

The Committee will be examining issues such as whether the Commissioner is likely to be able to enforce compliance effectively, and whether the Bill’s proposals on the role, responsibility and power of the proposed Commissioner strike the right balance.

Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:

“Balancing rights and responsibilities is always difficult. Particularly when looking at questions around protecting the public from harm versus protecting the public from state intrusion.

“The rapid development of technology that can identify individuals by using highly personal data, and the huge risks associated with this sort of data being used improperly, means that these are interesting and timely proposals from the Scottish Government.

“The Committee will grapple with whether the idea to create this new Commissioner is the right way to deal with these issues, and whether the Commissioner’s proposed powers and remit are fit for the challenges ahead."

Ms Mitchell added:

“To let us know what you think, go to the Committee webpage."

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