London police continue facial recognition testing with Stratford deployment

London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have deployed facial recognition technology in the Stratford area of East London to identify suspects wanted for violent crimes as part of its ongoing testing of public biometric surveillance technology.

The force said in an announcement that the location was chosen based on its efforts to reduce violence in the area, and that if it generates a match alert, police on the scene will perform further identity checks of the individual. The MPS says that as it conducts the trials, it is engaging with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) Ethics Panel, Home Office Biometrics and Forensics Ethics panel, Surveillance Camera Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, Big Brother Watch, and other stakeholders.

The Biometrics Commissioner recently released his annual report for 2017, in which he expressed concern that a lack of governance is making police trials of biometric programs more difficult.

“This technology has previously been used at the past two Notting Hill Carnivals and at the 2017 Remembrance Sunday service to assess if it could assist police in identifying known offenders in large events and so help police to protect the wider public,” said MPS Detective Superintendent Bernie Galopin. “The Met’s facial recognition technology was also used earlier this month at a port for the first time by Humberside Police.”

The facial recognition system will be used overtly, with leaflets disseminated to inform the public about the trial of the technology, according to the announcement.

“We are using the technology in Stratford to help to reduce violent crime and make the area safer by targeting individuals wanted for violence-related offences. The camera will scan faces of people as they pass by and alerts police officers of potential matches of specific individuals. The deployment of these cameras and targeting of individuals will be intelligence-led and temporary. Only images that come up as a match to a targeted individual will be retained for a limited period. The use of facial recognition technology aims to support standard policing activity to ensure everyone’s safety.”

A resident of Cardiff, Wales introduced the first legal challenge to the use of automated facial recognition technology by UK police earlier this month.

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