Stricter rules introduced in Scotland will now govern the police’s use of facial recognition technologies to carry out stop searches and arrests, which often lead to bias and discriminatory behaviour.

The new guidelines restrict the police’s power to conduct “voluntary” facial recognition tests on the public, which instead critics have argued are invasive.

The new code of practice also sets out standards over how biometric data can be acquired, held, used to aid criminal investigations. It condemns routine police checks unless a suspect has been convicted for a crime; their biometric data can be stored on the national police database in the event that they reoffend. Biometrics can also be used to exonerate suspects, which search engine database companies, such as Clearview AI have been trialling.

Biometric data encompasses personal information taken from DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, voice profiles, and facial recognition.

The Commission was appointed to prepare the statutory Code of Practice, which took effect on 16 November, 2022.

The use of biometric technology in policing has merit to attain full DNA profiles to secure convictions however as a tool deployed in routine policing, these technologies can be intrusive and compromise privacy standards.

The Scottish Police must adhere to 11 guiding principles which include ethics, privacy, lawful authority and respect for human right. However many recommendations have been issued for the “Scottish Government to work with Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to consider legislative provision in relation to the retention and use of photographic images by the police”. A bid to establish cyber kiosks as a case study was firmly rejected in a report in September 2019.

Scotland’s Biometric Commissioner, Dr Brian Plastow, who applauds the achievements using facial biometrics said: “It is important to strike the right balance between allowing Police Scotland to do what is required to keep people safe and to protect the human rights of the public. Scotland is the first country in the world to have a national code of practice which gives guidance to the police on how biometric data and related forensic technologies can be used. It promotes good practice, transparency and accountability by setting out standards for professional decision-making while matching the needs and responsibilities of policing with important human rights safeguards. Its implementation should enhance confidence in our criminal justice system”. He is commissioning two case studies to evaluate the treatment of children and vulnerable people in custody.