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Use of Biometric Data and Technologies

As the biometrics field continues to evolve, Scottish Ministers are committed to ensuring that biometric data and associated technologies are used within a clear framework which incorporates human rights and ethical considerations


In June 2017, the Scottish Government appointed John Scott QC to chair the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on the Use of Biometric Data in Scotland.  The group was asked to consider the recommendations contained in HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland’s Audit and Assurance Review of the Use of the Facial Search Functionality report and to provide recommendations to Ministers on a policy and legislative framework.

Independent Advisory Group

The group was chaired by prominent solicitor advocate John Scott QC and met eight times between June 2017 and January 2018.  The full remit and membership of the group is available to read in the Terms of Reference.

The IAG consulted with a range of organisations and individuals with an interest in biometrics including privacy and human rights bodies, research institutes and leading academics.  A sub-group was also established to consider particular issues relating to the retention and use of biometric data from children and young people.

The Scottish Government published the Report of the IAG on the Use of Biometrics in Scotland on 22 March 2018.

The report makes 9 recommendations which include the creation of an independent Scottish Biometrics Commissioner, the establishment of a statutory code of practice covering biometric data and technologies and a review of the existing retention rules (with distinct policies applied to children aged 12 to 17).  The Scottish Government response, which sets out next steps in relation to each of the recommendations, is published alongside the report.

Legislative Proposals

Scottish Government published proposals on “enhanced oversight of biometric data for justice and community safety purposes” for consultation on 13 July 2018.  The consultation seeks views on a draft statutory Code of Practice concerning the use of biometric data and a concept of operations outlining the role of a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.  These documents have been informed by the IAG’s report and developed with the support of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).

This consultation marks an important early opportunity for national debate on the use of biometrics to promote justice and community safety.  The Scottish Government is keen to ensure that as many people, communities and organisations as possible have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the policy and legislative framework in this area.  This will ensure the right balance is struck between the delivery of justice, community safety, privacy, ethics and wider human rights. 

The consultation ran from 13 July 2018 to 1 October 2018 on the Scottish Government website at  You can view submitted responses where consent has been given on our consultation page.

The Analysis Report will be publishe with the Scottish Government Consultation Response shortly.

Next Steps

Subject to the views expressed in the consultation, Scottish Government will seek to introduce primary legislation to deliver these improvements in the current parliamentary session.

Whilst the consultation primarily focuses on proposals in response to three recommendations of the IAG, it is important that they are considered as part of a wider programme of planned improvements following that Group’s work.  A progress summary against each recommendation was published in July 2018 as part of the consultation paper.

The IAG, with revised membership, will continue to meet with Scottish Government at key milestones throughout 2018 to provide advice to Ministers as Scottish Government continue to develop and refine policy and legislative proposals.  The revised Terms of Reference sets out the full remit and membership.


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