UK commission wants delay of automated facial recognition, predictive algorithms in policing

UK commission wants delay of automated facial recognition, predictive algorithms in policing

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has requested a suspension of the use of biometric automated facial recognition (AFR) and predictive algorithms by law enforcement agencies in England and Wales, until the technology and its impact have been properly investigated, and legislation revised, the organization announced.

The EHRC has presented to the UN a report outlining a number of concerns related to civil and political rights issues such as regulation for the use of AFR which may not be aligned with UK’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) legislation. Concerns were also raised about accuracy, citing reports that claim the technology is biased, and predictive policing techniques that rely on big data and algorithms to analyze data and identify patterns, which could generate more discrimination in law enforcement, the organization said. Such methods, EHRC warned, could breach privacy rights and have a detrimental effect on freedom of expression.

“It is essential that our laws keep pace with our evolving digital world so that new techniques to protect us don’t infringe on our rights in the process, and damaging patterns of discrimination, that we already know exist, are not reinforced,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in a prepared statement.

“The law is clearly on the back foot with invasive AFR and predictive policing technologies. It is essential that their use is suspended until robust, independent impact assessments and consultations can be carried out, so that we know exactly how this technology is being used and are reassured that our rights are being respected,” Hilsenrath added.

A similar report has been submitted to the UN by the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

“We share the EHRC’s concerns that police use of new technologies such as ‘cyber kiosks’ and facial recognition is outstripping the adequate protection for people’s rights required from legal frameworks and oversight mechanisms,” said Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, in a prepared statement. “Our own report to the UN highlighted gaps in relation to these issues in Scotland and we are pleased that some progress is now being made, for example, recent legislation to establish a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.”

Scotland passed legislation to finalize the creation of the Biometrics Commissioner position earlier this month.

The EHRC emphasizes the importance of thorough impact assessments and mitigation action with regards to the legal and policy framework before the technologies are widely deployed. The report takes a deep dive into the UK government’s efforts so far, and roadblocks in implementing the ICCPR.

The organization also points out the justice system’s ineptitude in dealing with increasing violence against women and girls, immigration detention and other issues. Some other important topics covered in the report are counter-terrorism measures, British military involvement in human rights violations overseas, and rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

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