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S. Marper vs United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - December 4, 2008

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It is interesting to note that UK is one of the most advanced countries in the world of biometrics. It holds the largest database in Europe with four and a half million entries in a country whose population is more or less 61 million. Biometrics consisted of data analysis within the biological sciences using statistical and mathematical methods. Recently, another meaning was given to this term, following the development of new technologies. It refers to the identification of individuals by their biological traits.

Biometrics is known to the general public by means of various films and series that illustrates it. It has been used as a means of biometric recognition of the iris or retina scans, fingerprints or even voice. On some computers, there is a system of fingerprint recognition. It can be added to the iris, fingerprints and voice recognition and also to the one based on face shape and the DNA. These methods are all based on characteristics unique to each person (except identical twins) that ensures high reliability.

The applicant of this operation, Mr Marper, was charged with first attempted robbery with violence and harassment of his second wife. Marper was acquitted and reconciled with his partner who later withdrew her complaint. However, the authorities kept their fingerprints and DNA samples taken when they were arrested. The applicants sought the destruction of such data. Both the police and the tribunal refused to grant this destruction, which the Court of Appeal affirmed in both cases. The House of Lords dismissed the turn.

Furthermore, this case fits into a particular context, that the British public had moved, under the influence of Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984. In this case, two people were suspected of murder and rape respectively and evaded justice because the evidence from DNA samples could not be received after they removed one of the defendants who had received a non-place and one acquittal. Subsequently, a new legislation was enacted to remedy this unacceptable injustice. Unfortunately, since this Act "United Kingdom is the only Member State (Council of Europe) to expressly permit the systematic retention for an unlimited period of cell samples and DNA profiles of persons who received an acquittal or dropping the charges."

However, these recognition techniques are accompanied by various drawbacks. First, tracing and identifying the human raises many questions about bioethics, for example, this can lead to excesses. Other questions also arise in the processing of personal data.

Then, this technology is not perfectly reliable. Indeed, the human being evolves over time but also at the discretion of the various events he encounters. In addition, a default setting is more important, not in the biological characteristics but measured in terms of the margin of error allowed. Electronic locks have two problems, on one hand the false rejection (the fact of being denied access when he is the right person) and on the other hand, the false acceptance (grant access to the wrong person).

Tags: biometric data, electronic locks, DNA

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