Another vindication for Alison McInnes on civil liberties as regulation of facial recognition technology recommended

There has been a pattern in this Holyrood Parliament of Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes finding out the SNP on some major civil liberties fail (armed police, excessive use of stop and search, including of children), the SNP just not getting it and then Alison being absolutely vindicated.

Today, that happened again. Last year, Alison highlighted the dangers of unregulated use of facial recognition technology by the Police after discovering that over 335,000 people’s images were retained on a police database.

A report today makes a number of recommendations to regulate this practice. The SNP Justice Secretary had previously dismissed Alison’s concerns.

The report concluded that there is “a need for improved legislation and better independent oversight around the police use of biometrics in Scotland, an independent Scottish Commissioner to oversee biometric databases should be established, as was introduced in England and Wales in 2012 when the Liberal Democrats were in the coalition government and a statutory code of practice governing the use of biometric data should be developed.

Alison said:

This review vindicates the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign highlighting the inadequate safeguards governing the use of our biometric data and in particular facial recognition technology.

Fingerprint and DNA evidence have been mistaken in the past, leading to innocent people being falsely identified and miscarriages of justice. We warned that without a robust legal framework the same could occur with the use of our images.

Facial searches have the potential to be a useful policing tool in detecting crime and making our streets safer. But, like fingerprints and DNA it is essential that its use is properly managed. The law needs to play catch-up. It is clear that an independent commissioner, an end to self-regulation and a clear code of practice, as recommended by HMICS, are now needed to help protect people’s privacy and civil liberties.

Just as occurred with stop and search, armed police and corroboration, the report’s findings today show that only the Scottish Liberal Democrats can be trusted to protect the civil liberties of Scots.

It’s quite incredible that Alison, as one of a tiny group of Liberal Democrat MSPs, has a better track record of delivery than some SNP ministers.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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