Dr Richard Guest advises on biometrics future

Dr Richard Guest, of the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, provided evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, which issued its report on 7 March.

The Committee warns that the Government has ‘failed to respond strategically to the growing use of biometric data, leaving a governance gap that has allowed the police to begin collecting certain biometric data without proper oversight’.

Dr Guest, whose current research work, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) , explores the data relationship between biometric and cyber-related data, told the Committee that it had been shown that biometric data could be linked with ‘cyber activity and personality assessment’ data in such a way that made it possible to obtain ‘unknown elements of identity from known elements’.

He stated that, in light of many of the challenges posed by developments in biometrics, ‘current legislation’ was ‘not fit for purpose’.

The Committee argues that both effective regulation and a clear strategy are urgently required if biometric technologies are to be successfully exploited and their risks minimised.

The report identifies three future trends in the application of biometrics: the expansion of unsupervised biometric systems, accessed via mobile devices, which verify identity; the proliferation of ‘second-generation’ biometric technologies that can authenticate individuals covertly; and the linking of biometric data with other types of ‘big data’ as part of efforts to profile individuals.

Pioneering research work at Kent, working in collaboration with other universities including Southampton, Dundee and Purdue in the US continues to directly address these issues and Dr Guest’s evidence to the committee is highly cited within the report.

The Committee also points to the growing use of biometric identification systems by the state, particularly in immigration and law enforcement. Despite this growth, the Committee found that the Government had been largely silent on the matter since the abolition of the Government’s Identity Card Programme in 2010 and had failed to engage in a full and frank public debate about biometrics. MPs have called on the Government to reverse this trend and set out plans to facilitate an open, public dialogue around the use of biometrics.

The report can be accessed at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmsctech/734/734.pdf