Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies

07 August 2014

The Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the potential use and collection of biometric data and whether regulations in this emerging field are adequate.

Technologies relying on biometric data to authenticate identity have been used predominately by Government authorities for security purposes, such as protecting computer network access, countering fraud and in aspects of UK border security. The latter includes the now decommissioned Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS), biometric residence permits, and e-passports which feature a microchip that stores a digitised image of the holder’s passport photograph.

Commercial organisations, however, are starting to play a greater role in both developing and using biometric data and technologies. It is anticipated that this trend will continue over the next decade, particularly as the financial costs, and computational resources required, decrease. Some commercial uses are already mainstream. Social media sites offer facial recognition software to assist users tagging uploaded photos, while accessing some mobile phones depends on fingerprint recognition rather than entering a passcode. Supporters contend that technologies relying on biometric data have transformed identity authentication. However, concerns continue to be raised about data protection, loss of privacy and identity theft.

Terms of reference

The Science and Technology Committee is seeking written submissions on the state of development of technologies using biometric data, specifically:

  • How might biometric data be applied in the future? Please give examples.
  • What are the key challenges facing both Government and industry in developing, implementing and regulating new technologies that rely on biometric data? How might these be addressed?
  • How effective is current legislation governing the ownership of biometric data and who can collect, store and use it?
  • Should the Government be identifying priorities for research and development in biometric technologies? Why?

The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Friday 26 September 2014.

Submitting written evidence

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements. If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information or do not wish your details to be used for the purpose of collecting feedback, please advise the Committee at providing your full name, address, and if relevant your organisation.

Each submission should

a) be no more than 3,000 words in length
b) be in Word format with as little use logos as possible
c) have numbered paragraphs
d) include a declaration of interests.

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
14 Tothill Street

Please note that

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

Further information

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