NYC, Perth deploy public facial recognition while London ethics panel calls for greater transparency
New public deployments of facial recognition have been announced for Perth, Australia, and New York City, while an ethics panel has set conditions for continuing those in London.
Perth to deploy downtown surveillance system
The City of Perth, Australia, is deploying six cameras with facial recognition among 30 new smart CCTV cameras in the Eastern part of the city to identify people on a “Black Watchlist,” PerthNow reports.
Tender documents reveal that the watchlist will be created and managed by the city, and that the network would include Perth’s central business district and Optus Stadium in a bid to prevent crime and terrorist attacks. The system, which will cost AU$1.075 million (US$790,000), will also include people and vehicle counting, license plate recognition, and analytical capabilities.
City Chair Commissioners Eric Lumsden said the system will allow the city’s frontline staff to respond faster to incidents and take preventative measures, as well as inform operational and capital works decisions. Australian Privacy Foundation Chairman David Vaile responded to the plans that “It’s none of their business trying to be a shadow police force.”
New York scans faces at toll gates
Security cameras located at bridge and tunnel toll gates in New York City are applying facial recognition to people in automobiles and comparing them to a database to find individuals who have warrants out for their arrest, parole violators, and criminal and terrorist suspects, according to the New York Post.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference outside the Queens Midtown Tunnel that the cameras perform license plate and facial recognition, and that technology is being experimented with to identify people who turn away from their cameras by their ears. The technology is currently being tested at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and the RFK/Triborough Bridge, and will reportedly be deployed to all seven of the city’s toll bridges.
In a statement, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Executive Director Donna Liberman noted the lower levels of accuracy facial recognition technology has been shown to have when applied to people of colour, women, and children.
“Government should not be casting a dragnet to track everyone going about their day through the state’s bridges and tunnels, especially not when that data could be shared with other law-enforcement agencies, including immigration authorities,” she said.
London ethics panel calls for greater transparency
The London Policing Ethics Panel has called for the city’s Metropolitan Police to publish its opinion on the legality of its deployment of facial recognition to clarify its legal basis before conducting any further trials, MayorWatch reports.
The Panel published its conclusions after Mayor Sadiq Kahn asked it to perform an independent assessment of the trials, which have been dogged by controversy, including accusations of racial bias for its deployment at annual African-Caribbean cultural event Notting Hill Carnival. The panel’s recommendations also include the publication of more information on the Met Police website, and ensuring that trial sites are selected in a way that minimizes the perception of bias. The panel also said that if police are going to continue with the trials, they should explain how decisions about its use are made, and how they plan to engage with citizens.
London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly earlier this month that the force plans further tests of the technology this year.
“The technology is potentially of value for policing, but these trials have raised important questions about how citizens are involved in testing powerful new digital technologies, and in subsequent decisions whether to adopt them,” said panel chair Dr. Suzanne Shale.
“We have already implemented a number of the recommendations made in the report. We will have implemented the remaining ones by the end of July as we continue to trial the technology,” said Met Commander Ivan Balhatchet. “We believe it will be an extremely valuable tool to help keep London and its citizens safe, alongside other tactical methods we use. The public would rightly expect our use of this technology to be rigorously scrutinised and used lawfully. There is currently no specific legal framework in the use of this technology and we are therefore keen to ensure that the appropriate legal and ethical frameworks are in place to support its use.”
The lack of governance practices for facial recognition has drawn recent criticism from the UK Biometrics Commissioner.