Government response to the biometrics report published

16 September 2015

The Science and Technology Committee has received a response from the Government to the ‘Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies’ Report produced by the Committee on 7 March 2015.

The response has been be published as a Special Report on Wednesday 16 September at  10.00 am (HC 455):

Nicola Blackwood MP, chair of the S&T Committee, said:

“Biometrics and forensics are fast-changing sciences, they clearly offer valuable technologies but there are obvious challenges for managing personal data and images. A Government strategy was urgently needed two years ago, when the Government last promised they would publish one. Having now made a new commitment to publish by December, it is essential that Ministers actually deliver this time.”  
The previous S&T Committee published its Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies report (PDF 681 KB) on 7 March 2015. Their report flagged the need for a ‘forensics and biometrics strategy’ to help improve the management of biometric data and its applications, including in forensics. They noted that such a Strategy had been due at the end of 2013 and its continued delay was "inexcusable". The Government Response published today promises two separate strategies — on biometrics and forensics — both of which will be published by the end of 2015.

The Government state that work on the Strategies is “still in the early stages of development”, but indicates that they will address some of the Committee’s issues: setting out the future direction of biometrics, engaging the public, security for personal data, and identifying gaps in legislation.

In a letter from the Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice & Victims, published in the report today, Mike Penning MP stated: “I recognise the need to develop a strategic approach to the use and retention of biometrics.  This approach should recognise that biometrics is fast-changing and provides opportunities for better secure identity verification, better public services, improved public protection and the ability to identify and stop criminals.  This should be balanced against safeguarding the rights of the individual from unnecessary intrusion. The Government’s Biometric Strategy will support an aligned approach on the use and retention of biometrics and how its implementation is governed.”

There will be no embargoed copies of the Special Report. Copies of the Special Report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop (020 7219 3890) upon publication by quoting the appropriate HC number. The text of the Special Report will be available on the Committee’s website from the time of publication.

Further information

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