Home Office not listening to Ethics Group on Custody Images and Facial Biometrics

Yesterday the Ethics Group of the National DNA Database Ethics Group* (NDNAD) published their annual report.

The report was brief and to the point.  It updated the public on the Government’s use of biometric data, namely fingerprints, DNA and now facial biometrics, and outlined where the Government are at with addressing the recommendations the NDNAD had made in their 2015 report.

It is worth a read purely to see in black and white how the group make clear that the Home Office have failed to listen to their advice and recommendations with regards to the retention of custody images and facial biometrics.

The group make clear that the Government’s Review of the Use and Retention of Custody Images which came out in February (see our blog) fails to address the retention of custody images in the way the NDNAD had recommended in their previous annual report.   They make clear that:

“The review did not align with the EG ‘s (Ethics Group) previous advice, that the retention times directed in the Protection of Freedoms Act for the retention of DNA samples and fingerprints should also be applied to the retention of custody images.”

The UKs retention of custody images has been addressed as a problem by the High Court in 2012.  It has been raised repeatedly in the House of Lords by Lord Scriven and Baroness Jones, by the Biometrics Commissioner in his annual report, and now, once again by the NDNAD.

The fact that custody images of innocent people are not being deleted along with their fingerprints and DNA when the person is determined to be innocent or released without charge, is a fundamental challenge to UK citizen’s right to be innocent until proven guilty.

That these custody images are being turned into facial biometrics, used to pick people out of crowds or out of image databases only adds to the concern.

We welcome yesterday’s report.  The concerns raised and the views held by the NDNAD are shared by Big Brother Watch and are addressed in our FACEOFF campaign. For more information on how to raise concern and call for the removal of innocent peoples custody images and facial biometrics on police databases visit our FACEOFF page, read our FAQ, sign our petition, and write to your MP.

*It is worth noting that this is the final report of the group under this name – they are now known as the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group.