UK’s CCTV commissioner pleads for AI, biometric ethical legal guidance

UK’s CCTV commissioner pleads for AI, biometric ethical legal guidance

Standard CCTV surveillance cameras in the U.K. now come equipped with facial recognition technology, implementation which has raised a number of concerns the surveillance camera commissioner has to address, writes The Guardian.

A number of public institutions such as law enforcement divisions, hospitals and city councils are having a hard time understanding artificial intelligence deployments and opportunities due to a poor government approach and missing guidelines.

CCTV commissioner Tony Porter says public institutions constantly reach out to him for guidance on how to ethically get started with biometric technology such as facial recognition and lip-reading.

“Facial recognition technology is now being sold as standard in CCTV systems, for example, so hospitals are having to work out if they should use it,” Porter said. “Police are increasingly wearing body cameras. What are the appropriate limits for their use? The problem is that there is insufficient guidance for public bodies to know what is appropriate and what is not, and the public have no idea what is going on because there is no real transparency.”

Concerns regarding the impact on human rights and civil liberties were voiced following U.K. government decision to review the use of artificial intelligence algorithms in decision making by public institutions because “it was very difficult to find out where AI is being used in the public sector,” said Lord Evans, a former MI5 chief, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

Last year, UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, responsible for the use of personal data, published a report calling for a new statutory code governing police deployments of facial recognition cameras in public.

In September 2019, South Wales police won the legal battle over the use of biometric facial recognition, the Cardiff high court ruled, following accusations by Ed Bridges, a former Lib Dem councilor that the technology interferes with the privacy rights of those scanned.

Cambridge University developed an AI tool that estimates how likely a convict is to reoffend. The tool was under evaluation by Durham police for three years.

While reports are due in February to be analyzed by Boris Johnson, Porter warns about the urgency of regulating the use of surveillance systems due to fast tech advancement.

“We’ve been calling for a wider review for months,” Porter said. “The SCC, for example, is the only surveillance regulator in England and Wales and we date back to when the iPhone 5 was new and exciting. So much has changed since.”

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