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London police paying public to test live facial recognition during live operation

London police paying public to test live facial recognition during live operation

London Metropolitan Police have been paying members of the public £50 (US$59) to take part in live facial recognition testing in central London for research and equality purposes during live operations using the technology where arrests were made for people wanted on drugs and violence charges.

People were recruited via job ads as spotted by MyLondon.news. The ads posted by the Envisage Agency, which specializes in staffing events, on the Mandy job platform describe the role as three hours over two days on 13-14 July:

“You will be taking facial photographs, videos, and selfies with a variety of camera systems to provide data for analysis of the performance of face recognition systems and differences in performance due to demographics.

“Some images will be taken with subjects wearing face masks. Images will be taken both inside and outside on the street while walking through a Live Facial Recognition deployment.”

The reason for the testing is to “help the Metropolitan Police Service fulfill its Public Sector Equality Duties regarding the uses of facial recognition.” The Metropolitan Police Service is currently in special measures following a series of scandals involving misogyny and racism.

The Met Police confirmed to Biometric Update via email that the testing took place during live police operations on both 7 and 14 July 2022 at Oxford Circus.

Rights group Big Brother Watch observed the 14 July operation, and commented to Biometric Update in an email.

“As well as scanning thousands of members of the public, the Met police used actors and children as young as 14 as subjects to test their facial recognition algorithm. The force were experimenting to ensure that even people wearing masks, hats or glasses can be subjected to a biometric identity check,” writes Big Brother Watch Legal and Policy Officer Madeleine Stone.

“The deployment was another embarrassment for the Met’s highly inaccurate technology. We witnessed several wrongful interventions, including a French exchange student, who was flagged despite being in the country for just a few days. It critical that parliament urgently gets a grip of this dystopian technology and bans its use.”


“You will need to sign a consent form that you are happy for the images of your face to be stored by the National Physical Laboratory,” stated the ad. The Mandy job ad (the role was also listed elsewhere at £100 for 4 hours) stated that anyone who was already booked for the 6-7 July cannot work this event.

The police reporting for the latest facial recognition operation at Oxford Circus on 7 July states that: “We also undertook testing of our LFR algorithms with the National Physical Laboratory alongside the deployment. This will help us understand more about its accuracy, and any bias shown when deployed in a realistic operational policing environment. It will help inform how we continue to use facial technology legally and fairly.”

Police say 15,600 people had their biometrics processed during that event. The recent update on police facial recognition use states that “After the testing is complete, the data from the volunteers and the CCTV footage will be kept by the Met and for a longer period than we would normally hold it for. This retention period is currently set at three years and is then subject to review.”

London Assembly Member Zack Polanski tweeted photos of police signage at Oxford Circus which state the data processed of anyone passing through will be kept for three years.


Further testing is anticipated from the South Wales Police, arguably the British police force most keen on face biometrics.

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