UK police defend use of facial recognition to identify criminals at music festival

A UK police force has defended the use of facial recognition technology to identify some 90,000 attendees at a music festival held at Donington Park over the weekend and cross-checking them against a database of wanted criminals across Europe, according to a report by the BBC.

The news comes a week after Leicestershire Police revealed it would use portable facial recognition technology for the first time at Download music festival in an effort to identify and catch thieves and drug dealers who target music festivals across Europe.

Leicestershire Police said it has since erased the information it gathered from festival-goers.

The trial marked the first time the facial recognition software had been used at an outdoor event in the UK.

“The software provided an efficient and effective way of picking known offenders out of a crowd – something that officers would previously have been done using paper briefings,” Chief superintendent Chris Haward said. “While it is too early to give definitive crime figures, early indications are that it has remained low.”

Police previously said that officers would “use their discretion appropriately” in the off chance that an individual might be wrongly identified.

The facial recognition trial drew a considerable backlash from campaign group Big Brother Watch, which called it “a great worry”.

“We’re very keen for bad people to be caught but we’re also keen for innocent people to go about their day-to-day business, have a good time at festivals they’ve paid good money for, and not feel as though they’re being surveyed by police,” Renate Samson of Big Brother Watch said.

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