UK Government to Amend Data Protection Laws to Enhance Use of Biometric Data

November 24, 2023

The United Kingdom has proposed to make changes to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill to build an advanced data protection framework, tackle benefit fraud, enable the country to unlock post-Brexit opportunities, and improve economic opportunities valued at £5.9 billion.

The key focus of proposed amendments and the bill is to uphold the high standards of the UK for data protection, simplify procedures for companies, enhance national security, and assist grieving families, as per Gov.UK press release. The extensive bill targets to streamline the use of personal information to enhance efficiency, improve public services, and strengthen innovation in science and technology.

The amendments encompass enhanced powers to request data from third parties like banking sectors and financial institutions, supporting the UK government to fight benefit fraud and save taxpayers up to £600 million in the upcoming five years. At present, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is restricted from carrying out fraud checks on a claimant when there exists a suspicious activity.

The proposed suggestions also permit periodic scrutiny of bank accounts belonging to those receiving benefits, detect increases in savings that exceed the eligibility limits, or instances where individuals spend more time in foreign countries than allowed by the benefits organizations. This approach will help to detect fraud and take preventive measures proactively.

To show compliance with privacy concerns, only a required amount of data will be accessed specifically in cases indicating risks of fraud and inaccuracy.

Additionally, another amendment offers support and reassurance to the families facing the grief of child loss. In the scenarios where the death of a child is referred to as suicide, a proposed “data preservation process” would allow social media platforms to retain only relevant personal information to implement it in investigations.

The proposed changes also involve the use of biometric data like fingerprints to enhance national security and authorize the Counter Terrorism Police to preserve the biometrics of high-risk individuals, provided by Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization.  The biometric data will be retained according to Interpol’s retention rules.

The amendments also guarantee that if an individual has a foreign conviction, their biometrics will be preserved considerably, following the same approach as individuals with UK convictions, this is essential when foreign nationals have prior convictions of crimes like terrorism.

The United Kingdom is introducing various measures to implement digital technology into its system to streamline the process and enhance user experience. The UK police plan to use facial recognition technology to recognize illicit actors by taking pictures on their mobile phones and searching for matches in the available data within seconds. The plan aims to increase the use of facial recognition to verify most of the suspects and develop a nationwide roadmap for proposed facial recognition technology.