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Metropolitan Police conducting final live facial recognition trials before full evaluation


London’s Metropolitan Police are testing their live facial recognition system in Westminster on December 17 and 18 as the next step in the force’s ongoing trial, the Daily Mirror reports.

Mobile facial recognition units will be deployed overtly to the Soho, Piccadilly Circus, and Leicester Square areas, along with a uniformed police presence and public information leaflets. The tests will run for eight hours, matching members of the public against a database of wanted criminals and suspects, and the Met confirmed that individuals could opt out of scans, according to the Mirror.

“The Met is currently developing the use of live facial recognition technology and we have committed to 10 trials during the coming months. We are now coming to the end of our trials when a full evaluation will be completed,” says Metropolitan Police Service Strategic Lead for Live Facial Technology Ivan Balhatchet.

“We continue to engage with many different stakeholders, some who actively challenge our use of this technology. In order to show transparency and continue constructive debate, we have invited individuals and groups with varying views on our use of facial recognition technology to this deployment.”

Big Brother Watch, which has previously found out through a Freedom of Information request that the system was returning up to 98 percent false positive matches, says the false positive rate has actually increased, up to 100 percent. The group’s Director Silkie Carlo blasted the Met trial.

“The police’s use of this authoritarian surveillance tool in total absence of a legal or democratic basis is alarming,” he warns. “As with all mass surveillance tools, it is the general public who suffer more than criminals. The fact that it has been utterly useless so far shows what a terrible waste of police time and public money it is. It is well overdue that police drop this dangerous and lawless technology.”

A legal challenge from Big Brother Watch is just one suit brought against the Met over its use of the technology.

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