Met Police deploy NEC facial biometrics across London
The implementation “will be intelligence-led and deployed to specific locations in London. This will help tackle serious crime, including serious violence, gun and knife crime, child sexual exploitation and help protect the vulnerable,” the force said.
NEC says its facial biometrics technology is “installed in over 1,000 major systems in more than 70 countries and regions worldwide.”
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.
In March last year, U.K. commissioners pushed back on police use of automatic facial biometrics and the Information Commissioner’s office opened an investigation into the legal basis, necessity, proportionality, and justification for the use of automatic facial recognition.
At the time, the London Policing Ethics Panel said if the police proved biometric real-time facial recognition would not introduce gender or racial bias into their operations, they should be allowed to use it.
Arguing the Met Police followed the guidelines, the Information Commissioner’s Office has approved the project because it “received assurances from the MPS that it is considering the impact of this technology and is taking steps to reduce intrusion and comply with the requirements of data protection legislation.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office and UK’s Biometrics Commissioner have emphasized the mandatory need for legislation to regulate facial recognition use.
“It is difficult to see anybody other than Parliament being the appropriate arbitrator of proportionality in respect of how the loss of privacy by citizens should be balanced against… policing power,” reads a report released in June 2019.
The project is, however, opposed by NGO Liberty which argues that the measure is “oppressive and completely unjustified” because it jeopardizes freedom of expression and privacy, turning the U.K. into a “surveillance state”.
The technology, from NEC, provides police officers with an additional tool to assist them in doing what officers have always done – to try to locate and arrest wanted people,” reads a statement from the Metropolitan Police. “This is not a case of technology taking over from traditional policing; this is a system which simply gives police officers a ‘prompt’, suggesting “that person over there may be the person you’re looking for”, it is always the decision of an officer whether or not to engage with someone.”
According to the Biometrics Commissioner, the remaining concern is whether the public trust law enforcement with biometrics use.
The ICO has committed to collaborating with authorities to establish “a legal framework by means of a statutory and binding code of practice issued by government,” as “such a code would build on the standards established in the Surveillance Camera Code (issued under the Protection of Freedoms Act (POFA 2012) and sit alongside data protection legislation, but with a clear and specific focus on law enforcement use of LFR and other biometric technology.”
South Wales police were recently criticized for its use of facial recognition at a major football derby.