We’ve been warning about this moment since the first day TruePublica went online. We said that the government would eventually take the biometric data of every single citizen living in Britain and use it for nefarious reasons. DNA, fingerprint, face, and even voice data will be included. But that’s not all.
The excuse to be used, as ever, will be national security or terrorism, despite the huge fall in fatalities from terrorism and terror-related incidents since the 1970s.
Apart from crime-fighting, the Home Office also proposes in its long-awaited report that it will use the centralized database for vetting migrants on the streets and borders of Britain.
Not for the first time, civil rights groups argue that systems such as face recognition is faulty, dubiously legal, and collected without public consent. The outcry over Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the EU referendum should, if nothing else, confirm that bulk data collection, used without either public debate or a legal basis is emphatically against our civil liberties.
However, the legality of the creation of a centralised biometric database will not stop a government who have been repeatedly caught breaking the law when it comes to privacy and data collection. Police, immigration, and passport agencies already collect DNA, face, and fingerprint data. On the latter, police forces across Britain now have fingerprint scanners on the streets of Britain with officers providing no more than a promise that fingerprint data taken will be erased if the person stopped is innocent of any crime.
The government’s face database already has 12.5 million people – or so it has admitted to. The Home Office, embroiled in all sorts of privacy and surveillance legal cases caused a scandal last April when an official said it would simply be too expensive to remove innocent people from its criminal face databases of mugshots.
Without proper, enforcible regulation that can be fully scrutinised by civil society, there are many opportunities for the misuse of biometric data. It means nothing when the Home Office says its collection of biometric data will be “lawful,” when it is found by the highest courts in both Britain and the EU of breaking basic surveillance and data protection laws. And what laws there are,