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New UK live facial recognition code proposed has potential for adverse effects

New UK live facial recognition code proposed has potential for adverse effects

The UK’s Home Office has published a proposed code of practice to cover police use of live facial recognition in England and Wales in the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. As the first update to the code since 2013, there has been widespread backlash that sufficient guidelines around data protection are not in place, reports the BBC.

Covering CCTV use by local authorities and the police, the proposed code states that any use of live facial recognition should quickly delete any unused biometric data collected; be justified and proportionate; follow an authorization process and take into account any potential adverse impact on protected groups.

The proposed update would update the guidance in reference to the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 as well as last year’s Bridges v South Wales Police ruling.

“I don’t think it provides much guidance to law enforcement, I don’t really [think] it provides a great deal of guidance to the public as to how the technology will be deployed”, says former CCTV watchdog Tony Porter. Porter is currently the chief privacy officer at Corsight.

The Ada Lovelace Institute in London echoes that guidance around the topic should be clearer. “Far more still needs to be done to ensure that the rules concerning the use of a technology as powerful and controversial as live facial recognition are clear, comprehensive and provide adequate protections from potential harms”.

The Home Office said in a statement that “The Government is committed to empowering the police to use new technology to keep the public safe, whilst maintaining public trust, and we are currently consulting on the Surveillance Camera Code”. Adding that all users of surveillance camera systems including live facial recognition are required to comply with strict biometric data protection legislation.

In June UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham expressed concern for the potential that live facial recognition has to be used inappropriately in her set of recommendations around biometric data collection. While in July former UK Biometrics Commissioner Paul Wiles highlighted the retention of custody images (including live facial recognition, voice biometrics and gait analysis) in the Police National Database (PND) via testimony to the House of Commons.

It is unclear when exactly this code will come into practice.

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