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Calls against use of live facial recognition tech in Britain grow, Parliament petitioned

Calls against use of live facial recognition tech in Britain grow, Parliament petitioned

The use of Live Facial Recognition Technology (LFRT) by police and private companies in parts of the United Kingdom, as well as plans for new deployment rules, is facing increasingly stiff scrutiny.

The recent publication of a proposed code of practice intended to set guiding rules on the deployment of the technology across England and Wales has sparked a rebuttal from Privacy International as well as 30 other UK-based and international civil society organizations (CSOs) which are now calling for the project to be halted.

In a letter addressed to four UK Parliamentary Committees, the CSOs argue that they believe the use of live facial recognition poses “significant and unmitigated risks” for UK society, and as such, should be banned entirely.

The petitioners sustain that the Police and the Home Office, who are fronting the cause, are not legitimately authorized to go ahead with such an “intrusive” technology without first submitting it for Parliamentary consideration.

“In a democratic society, it is imperative that intrusive technologies are subject to effective scrutiny. Police and the Home Office have, so far, completely bypassed Parliament on the matter of LFRT. We are not aware of any intention to subject LFRT plans to parliamentary consideration, despite the intrusiveness of this technology, its highly controversial use over a number of years, and the dangers associated with its use,” a portion of the letter reads.

They further express worries about the implications of the technology not only on privacy and data protection, but more generally on human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“We are concerned that LFRT may be used in a broad range of public gatherings such as sporting events, music concerts, and protests, threatening protected rights. Further, deployments of this surveillance technology could mirror and exacerbate existing disproportionate policing practices towards minority communities,” they write.

Privacy International and its co-petitioners are urging Parliament and other relevant bodies to debate how the technologies are used in Britain.

“…The potential use of live facial recognition by police forces should be a matter for Parliament as it fundamentally alters the balance of power between citizens and the State. Should Parliament be afforded this opportunity, it will be evident that legislation attempting to regulate the use of this technology is insufficient – instead, its use in public spaces should be wholly prohibited,” their letter mentions.

The criticisms notwithstanding, the UK Home Office has defended its move saying it is meant to empower the police with new technologies in order to enable them keep public spaces safe, while maintaining public trust.

Separately, a member of the House of Lords has already brought an act calling for a thorough review of facial recognition technology which is awaiting its second hearing.

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