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Ryder Review recommends new governance regime for biometrics

01/07/22

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Image source: istock.com/Laramenko

England and Wales need a statutory framework, new legislation, codes of practice and an ethics board for the use of biometric data in public services, according to a new independent legal review.

It adds that the use of live facial recognition by the police forces should be suspended until these are in place.

The Ryder Review has been written by Matthew Ryder QC and published by the Ada Lovelace Institute in response to the increasing use of biometrics and a sense that legislation in recent years, including the General Data Protection Regulation – has not provided sufficient clarity to regulations.

There has also been increasing concern over use of facial recognition technology by police forces, as recently expressed by the biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner in response to a professional practice document.

“In order to protect our fundamental rights, particularly our data and privacy rights, this revolution in biometric data use will need to be accompanied by a similarly ambitious new legal and regulatory regime,” Ryder says in the review’s foreword.

“That regime will need to be put into effect by firm, assiduous and proactive lawmakers and regulators. This is vital to ensure that we do not allow the use of biometric data across society to evolve in a flawed way, with inadequate laws and insufficient regulation.”

Framework of processes

Ryder outlines 10 recommendations, including the development of a technologically neutral, statutory framework of processes to be followed in using biometrics, and considerations that must be taken into account before the technology is deployed against members of the public.

This should be accompanied by legislation on the use of biometrics for unique identification of individuals, and for categorisation, along with sector- and/or technology-specific codes of practice, including a legally binding one for the use of live facial recognition.

The review also calls for the use of live facial recognition to be suspended until these are in place.

In addition, it calls for the setting up of a national Biometrics Ethics Board with a statutory advisory role for the technology’s use in the public sector. This could build on good practice developed by the London Policing Ethics Panel and West Midlands Police, and its advice should be published.

There is also a need for the regulation and oversight of biometrics to be consolidated, and for further work on how the data is used in the private sector, the review says.

It adds that the research has brought up two counter-intuitive features. First, strong law and regulation will not hinder progress in the practical use of biometrics; and second that the practical effect of transparency and public consultation has not always been positive, as it is often influence by a partial understanding of consent and an ill-defined assessment of public opinion.

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