Police ‘should delete pictures of innocent people’

Police Scotland have added more that 375,000 pictures to their database since 2014.

The Scottish Lib Dems are calling for innocent people to have their image removed from the police database after discovering Police Scotland have added more than 375,000 photos since 2014.

Photographs of suspects are automatically uploaded to the police’s national database and under current laws can stay on there indefinitely – even if the person is found to be innocent.

A freedom of information request revealed 375,305 images have been supplied to the national database from Police Scotland’s Criminal History System since 2014.

MSP Liam McArthur has now tabled an amendment to the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill that would introduce a presumption that innocent people’s photos be deleted after three years.

The move would bring the regulations in line with current rules for DNA and fingerprint retention, although this time period can be extended by the courts.

Commenting on his proposal, which would apply to those found not guilty in court and people who were not charged, McArtur said: “The volume of pictures being uploaded to the police database is startling and demonstrates how important this resource already is to policing.

“However, innocent people’s images should not be kept on file forever.

“Facial recognition could be valuable for modernising the way police investigate crime but unregulated it is a serious threat to human rights and civil liberties.

“Requiring the police to delete this data after a reasonable period is the common-sense move recommended by John Scott in his review.

“Even the police have said they would welcome new rules to help keep them right.”

He added: “The full force of modern technology means it is easy for companies and public bodies to amass a huge amount of data on us in a short space of time if they are given the opportunity.

“It is time we gave people more control over their data and better control the access that others have.

“Public bodies should be setting a good example.”

Holyrood’s Justice Committee heard evidence from Police Scotland last week about the Biometrics Bill, with Detective Chief Superintendent Sean Scott saying a presumption of deletion is “absolutely right”.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan added the current rules about what the police can do with images of the public are “not as clear” as the rules around fingerprints and DNA.

He said new governance arrangements would be “absolutely valued and very much welcomed”.

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