Statewatch News Online:UK Biometric data advances raise major issues of control and accountability

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Biometric data advances raise major issues of control and accountability
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Biometrics Commmissioner Annual Report 2016 (pdf)

The total number of DNA profiles held by the police in the UK at 31 December 2016 was:6,530,647.and

Number of fingerprint sets held on IDENT 1 for all forces as at 30 September 2016: Arrest Records: 23,836,130 and Subject Ten-Print Fingerprints: 7,962,091.

"big data’ will change the relationship between the citizen and the state in a country that has sometimes thought of freedom as having a civil realm over which the state has minimal knowledge or control; that privacy and liberty are conjoined. As in the specific case of facial images discussed above, these developments have been the subject of little public or Parliamentary scrutiny and it is unclear under what governance arrangements they will operate.." (...)

some of the emerging biometrics will be more complicated to assure. Some commercially available biometric software now uses machine learning or neural networks to improve analytic ability but, by doing so, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to understand how that software is determining possible matches. This is often referred to as the ‘Black Box Problem’ because it runs the danger of black box modelling, unchecked by human intervention, becoming the basis for decision making. This scientific problem raises issues for ethics and governance (...)

Last year’s report drew attention to this rapid development in the police’s use of facial images and the need to consider technical quality, management, interpretation and governance. The recent Review proposes leaving all these issues solely in the hands of the police without any independent oversight or assurance to reassure the public, especially those individuals whom the 2012 Court judgment described as “entitled to the presumption of innocence”.It is now almost five years since the Court held that the police retention of facial images was unlawful, yet we still do not have a clear policy in operation to correct that situation." [emphasis added]

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