London landlord deploys cameras with facial biometric capabilities over 67 acres

The Canary Wharf Group has deployed surveillance cameras with facial biometric capabilities across 67 acres of London’s Kings Cross estate, The Financial Times reports, with plans to extend it across the entire Canary Wharf estate.

King’s Cross once had a reputation as being the scene of various criminal activities, but is now an increasingly expensive neighborhood that includes Google’s UK headquarters, part of Central St. Martin’s College, schools, and retailers. The 97-acre Canary Wharf estate also includes skyscrapers housing HSBC and Citigroup’s operations in the country.

“These cameras use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition, but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public,” a spokesperson told the Times.

There are already 1,750 CCTV cameras with automated number plate recognition (ANPR) implemented, and facial recognition would not be used on an ongoing basis, but when a specific threat has been identified. Once that happens, an estimated 140,000 people would pass the cameras each day.

GDPR requires explicit consent by individuals for their facial biometric data to be used, but as King’s Cross and Canary Wharf are private estates, GDPR is not expected to apply post-Brexit, and the UK is still working through the regulation of facial recognition, it is unclear what, if any, rules will apply.

Privacy International said commercial and retail uses of facial recognition have received inadequate attention.

“The use of facial recognition technology can function as a panopticon, where no one can know whether, when, where and how they are under surveillance,” the group said, according to The Register. “In London the creep of pseudo-public spaces, owned by corporations who can deploy facial recognition in what we believe are public streets, squares and parks, presents a new challenge to the ability of individuals to go about their daily lives without fear that they are being watched.”

New Zealand agency to award $2.9M contract for public facial recognition camera network

Auckland Transport (AT) is about to award a tender to deploy 8,000 cameras with facial recognition across the New Zealand capital, Radio New Zealand reports.

The $4.5 million (US$2.9 million) tender would begin by placing hundreds of cameras on city streets, highways, and in public spaces. AT Group Manager of Technology Solutions Chris Creighton says it would likely expand to 5,200 cameras within three years and 6,000 within the next five years.

In a statement, AT said that it is not dramatically increasing the number of CCTV cameras in deployment, and instead is future proofing Auckland Council, NZTA, police and Regional Facilities and Civil Defence in a way that will cut cost.

AT held an open meeting on its plans a year ago, presenting them in a report, but according to Radio New Zealand, it was not widely reported.

The country’s Privacy Commissioner said in a statement that the transport body had not consulted with him on any such project since 2015.

Computer vision specialist Dr. Andrew Chen told Radio New Zealand that with changes in technology, how it is shared becomes key.

“The primary hazard that we’d be concerned about is the potential to combine this data with other data that these agencies would already have from previous interactions with the council or with police – cellphone data, banking data, et cetera,” he says.

The agency says it has rules around data sharing, and updated its privacy rules for cameras recently.

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