False positives draw criticism of Wales police facial recognition use as Scotland considers iris biometrics

South Wales police have admitted that of the 2,470 people identified as possible matches with criminals on file out of 170,000 attending a 2017 Champion’s League soccer match in Cardiff, 2,297 (92 percent) were found to be false positives.

The information was published on the police force’s website, though the Guardian reports that it also defended the technology, saying that no system is 100 percent accurate, and that it has led to 450 arrests, none based on an incorrect match.

“Technical issues are common to all face recognition systems, which means false positives will be an issue as the technology develops,” a police spokesperson said. “Since initial deployments during the European Champions League final in June 2017, the accuracy of the system used by South Wales police has continued to improve.”

Police said that the high number of false positives was a result of poor quality images provided by agencies such as UEFA and Interpol, as well as a lack of experience with the scale of deployment, which was the first for the force. Statistics on the website show 46 false matches at a boxing match, and 42 at a rugby match.

“We need to use technology when we’ve got tens of thousands of people in those crowds to protect everybody, and we are getting some great results from that,” Chief Constable Matt Jukes told the BBC. “But we don’t take the use of it lightly and we are being really serious about making sure it is accurate.”

Big Brother Watch criticized the use of real-time facial recognition technology on Twitter, however, calling it a threat to civil liberties and “a dangerously inaccurate policing tool.”

Scotland weighs iris recognition for police

Scotland’s national police are considering implementing iris recognition technology to reduce paperwork and help identify “repeat visitors,” The Scotsman reports.

Scottish Parliament will consider the technology, along with “cyber kiosks” that can bypass passwords to collect data from mobile phones. In a statement to MSPs, Police Scotland said that iris recognition could speed up processes, but recognized that biometric programs implemented without proper consultation and funding run “considerable risk.”

“It is absolutely right that Police Scotland look at the possible benefits new technology – including iris scanners – could bring,” said Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson. “But it is also right that due and serious consideration is given to how this system would operate, including how information would be safely stored.”

An Independent Advisory Group on Biometric Data in the country recommended the creation of a code of practice for biometric data collection in March. The group’s leader John Scott QC said “It’s exactly the sort of thing that should be subject to proper validation and fall within the remit of a biometrics commissioner,” according to The Scotsman.

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