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Legal challenge over police use of facial recognition in Wales moves forward



South Wales police will not block a legal challenge raised by Cardiff man Ed Bridges regarding its use of facial recognition technology, reports the BBC.

Bridges is represented by human rights organization Liberty and has demanded South Wales police end its use of automated facial recognition (AFR) technology because “it violates the privacy rights of everyone within range of the cameras, has a chilling effect on peaceful protest, discriminates against women and BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people, and breaches data protection laws.”

While the South Wales police has said its use of AFR was “lawful and proportionate”, Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, has criticized the use of facial recognition technology by the department during a peaceful demonstration. He recommended that strict privacy impact assessments be conducted by the government and police prior to pilots.

“In addition to the admitted lack of precision of the technology, I find it difficult to see how the deployment of a technology that would potentially allow the identification of each single participant in a peaceful demonstration could possibly pass the test of necessity and proportionality,” he wrote.

Liberty claims South Wales police have used AFR in public spaces on at least 22 occasions since last May, including the Champions League final in Cardiff in May, where it emerged that of the 2,470 potential matches made using AFR, 92% (2,297) were wrong.

“The police’s indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology on our streets makes our privacy rights worthless and will force us all to alter our behaviour,” added Bridges. “It needs to be challenged and it needs to stop.”

The BBC reports that the legal battle is likely to have a “significant impact on privacy law in the UK”.

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