Newsletter No 9 December 2023
Welcome to the November 2023 newsletter for the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner
Since our last newsletter I have laid both my 2022/23 Annual Report & Accounts and my first Operational Report 2022/23.
Dr Brian Plastow
Scottish Biometrics Commissioner
To learn more about who we are and what we do please visit our website
Find us on Facebook by searching ‘Scottish Biometrics Commissioner’
Look out for our new website coming in early 2024
Annual Operational Report and Annual Report & Accounts
On 26 September 2023 we laid our second Annual Report & Accounts and our first Annual (Operational) Report 2022/23. Both reports highlight the four recommendations first identified in our Vulnerable Adults and Children Assurance Reviews published March 2023. A link to each report can be found be clicking on the relevant image below.
On 17 October the Commissioner spoke at the global Biometrics Institute Conference at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London.
The topic of his speech was ‘Impossible Crimes; Unless you know about biometrics’. The Commissioner presented three international case studies to highlight how biometrics data can sometimes provide invaluable insights to detectives investigating crimes which otherwise seemed impossible to solve.
The case studies involved a historic double murder in Scotland, a 2005 rape in Alaska, and a murder in Athens in 2021 where conventional DNA (Scotland), recombinant/chimeric DNA (Alaska), and cardiovascular readings (Athens) ultimately helped to solve ‘impossible crimes’.
On 7 November the Operations Manager spoke at the Futurescot conference on Digital Justice and Policing. The topic of his presentation was A Brave New World for Justice and Policing: Ensuring New Technologies in Justice and Policing are Equitable and Command Public Trust. He spoke alongside AC Armando R. Aguilar from Miami Police Dept. and Prof. William Webster from Stirling University.
A blog from the Operations Manager re his time and presentation at this event will be included in our next newsletter.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE OUR LAST NEWSLETTER
We’ve welcomed two new members to our Advisory Group
Professor Niamh Nic Daeid is Director of the award winning Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS) the 10 year mission is to provide a robust underpinning for the scientific evidence presented in our Courts. She is a Chartered Chemist and an authorised Forensic Chemist with specialisms including fire investigation, clandestine drug chemistry and explosives.
Eleanor Deeming Johnstone is a qualified solicitor and Legal Officer with the Scottish Human Rights Commission. Eleanor provides legal and policy advice to support all of the Commission’s functions and leads the Commission’s work on social security.
In February 2023 we submitted our first Records Management Plan, an updated version was provided in July 2023 - feedback and our assessment report was published by the National Records of Scotland on their website in October 2023 – you can read it here.
Of the 14 elements we were assessed on, all except one element was Green with the remaining being scored as Amber.
As per one of our strategic objectives – to develop, publish, promote, and assess compliance with a statutory Code of Practice on the acquisition, retention, use, and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland – the SBC will meet Key Performance Indicator 6 – which measures our legal requirement to assess compliance with a Code of Practice. Our target is to publish one compliance assessment report each year for each organisation to whom our functions extend. This will be done around each anniversary of the Code taking effect. Recently the Commissioner issued compliance reports to the PIRC, the SPA and Police Scotland with results to be published on our website in early 2024.
Our Operations Manager is currently working on our next Assurance Review – which will provide a wide strategic assessment and baseline study on the existing landscape of images and photographs in Scotland. This will inform decision-makers, criminal justice partners and our community, of current volumes; where they are stored; how they are used and how they support law enforcement agencies in Scotland. We hope this review will also improve the current levels of awareness, knowledge and practices related to images and photographs used for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland. The terms of reference are currently available on our website.
Over the past few months the Commissioner has attended a variety of meetings and delivered a range of presentations - some as listed below:
- 15 June: Policing Performance Committee
- 13 September: Meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs.
- 30 October: Spoke at Biometrics Institute Congress
Our Operations Manager has also been busy over the past few months:
- 29 September: Attended a conference organised by the University of Firenze on facial recognition, called Next democratic frontiers for facial recognition technologies
- 3 October: Attended online workshop organised by Global Women Hub based in Belgium on Advancing gender equality in AI Development
- 21 September: attended FINDS strategy board meeting in London
- Monthly biometrics points of contact meetings held with Police Scotland and SPA
The Commissioner and his daughter Samantha took part in the 30k Ioannina lake charity run.
They were running to raise funds for the Simpsons Special Care Babies Unit here in Edinburgh.
FURTHER SOURCES OF READING
For further reading please visit our Scottish Biometrics Commissioner website
There are many other reference sources available to assist readers in engaging with debates on biometric data and technologies more generally. We do not endorse materials on other websites but simply signpost the following short selection as sources of additional information:
Scottish Police Authority Forensic Services
Biometric Update UK
Ada Lovelace Institute
Commissioner for the retention and use of Biometrics for the UK and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner for England and Wales
Forensic Information Database Service (Home Office)
I hope that this short newsletter is of interest. You can subscribe to future newsletters and annual reports automatically by registering on our website.