Biometrics and Information Commissioners criticize live facial recognition deployment across London

Biometrics and Information Commissioners criticize live facial recognition deployment across London

The UK government’s Biometrics Commissioner has criticized, alongside MPs and human rights organizations, the Metropolitan Police’s deployment of live facial recognition-equipped cameras across London, writes Public Technology.

The Commissioner claims a recent High Court decision does not give the police free reign to roll out biometric facial recognition cameras across the city.

The Cardiff high court ruled in Sept. 2019 that the use of biometric facial recognition by South Wales police is lawful. The matter was brought to the judges’ attention by former Liberal Democrat Councillor Ed Bridges, with support from rights group Liberty.

“It should be noted that the published legal mandate references the recent judgment of the High Court in Cardiff on the use of LFR by South Wales Police,” said Biometrics Commissioner Paul Wiles. “Although the court found South Wales’ use of LFR to be consistent with the requirements of the Human Rights Act and data protection legislation, that judgement was specific to the particular circumstances in which South Wales Police used their LFR system. The Metropolitan Police will need to pay attention to those circumstances to which the court drew attention.”

Wiles further stated that the decision in the South Wales court case is appealed and “that the new government gave a manifesto commitment to provide a strict legal framework to govern the future police use of biometrics and artificial intelligence.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office responded that its investigation finalized in Oct. 2019 found the public is supportive of LFR use in police work but it needs “improvements in how police authorized and deployed the technology if it was to retain public confidence and address privacy concerns.”

The ICO says the MPS “is considering the impact of this technology and is taking steps to reduce intrusion and comply with the requirements of data protection legislation.” The organization further emphasizes the privacy implications the technology may have on the country’s citizens which call for “a statutory and binding code of practice for LFR as a matter of priority.”

A group of MPs supported last year the request for a stop on the use of facial recognition technology in police operations. David Davis, former Brexit Secretary, said the plan to implement facial recognition technology was “unwise.”

The Met Police announced in December 2018 that it had committed to 10 trials to test the technology, and an evaluation was pending as it was preparing for the final trial on February 14. Cameras would be installed “where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders” and images would be matched against a watch list. The Met Police said there would be clear signs stating LFR cameras are rolled out in the area and the technology will not be embedded in CCTV or in number-plate recognition devices.

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