UK Commissioner opens investigation into police use of facial recognition

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has launched a formal investigation into the legality and effectiveness of facial recognition technology used by police in Britain, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Denham warned the government’s Home Office and the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) earlier this year in a blog post that if her concerns about the technology’s intrusive use were not addressed, she would consider legal action. Police are piloting the technology in London, Humberside, South Wales, and Leicestershire.

London Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick said recently that complex laws and regulations are holding back the force’s use of facial recognition. After being heavily criticized for poor accuracy, the South Wales Police’s facial recognition system has shown improvement in testing, but still faces a legal challenge which could have significant ramifications for public biometrics use and privacy more broadly in the UK.

Law firm Clifford Chance’s head of technology Jonathan Kewley told the Telegraph that the investigation will likely cover the collection and storage of images, and the rights of members of the public to be removed from the database.

The Home Office has faced a barrage of criticism for its failure to delete images in accordance with a court order, and for a strategy document which recommended centralizing government agency databases, but offered little guidance on policy or oversight.

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