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Scottish local authority switches off facial recognition citing legal, ethical concerns

Scottish local authority switches off facial recognition citing legal, ethical concerns

A Scottish local authority, Falkirk Council, has recently spent over £1 million (U.S.$1.4 million) on upgrading 76 state-of-the-art CCTV cameras for police use in supporting criminal prosecutions, though without using the in-built facial recognition capability, which has been turned off, Furturescot reports.

While the new digital cameras will be able to provide instantaneous HD images, the facial recognition feature was specifically switched off over ethical and legal concerns about the implications of the technology, according to a council spokesperson.

The legality of live facial recognition has been hotly debated in England and Wales, and the UK’s Home Office published a proposed code of practice to cover police use of the technology this month. Policing is a devolved issue in Scotland, where police had planned to begin using live facial recognition by 2026, before it was put on hold last year with a parliamentary committee stating a legal framework is needed, along with assurances of human rights and data protections.

The CCTV in Falkirk also allows traffic flow management via social media, and monitoring of crowds at events. Ten out of a planned 15 mobile units have already been deployed in the council area, which can be moved on demand into crime and antisocial behavior hotspots.

A new partnership between Falkirk council and Police Scotland would see the additional 25 percent contribution to the £240k annual revenue cost of delivering the CCTV, yet to be confirmed.

Scotland’s first Biometrics Commissioner was appointed earlier this year to oversee lawful, effective and ethical adoption of biometrics in the policing system.

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