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Critics pan planned police use of facial recognition during King Charles’ coronation

Critics pan planned police use of facial recognition during King Charles’ coronation

An announcement by the UK Metropolitan Police Service (Met) that live (or ‘real-time’) facial recognition technology will be deployed in central London as part of a massive security operation during the coronation of King Charles III has been met with criticisms from rights activists.

The metropolitan police said in an announcement on May 3 that it will use facial recognition in what would be one of the biggest and most significant single day police operations in the country.

The move also follows recent government approval for the police to crack down on protests during the ceremony.

“We intend to use facial recognition technology in central London. The watch list will be focused on those whose attendance on Coronation Day would raise public protection concerns, including those wanted for offences or have an outstanding warrant for arrest issued by the courts, or those under relevant offender management programmes in order to keep the public safe,” the Met says in a statement.

The force vowed that “our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low. We will deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration.”

Emphasizing the importance of the deployment for the safety of the huge crowds that will be on the streets of London, Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: “We want Londoners and visitors coming to the city to enjoy this historic and momentous occasion safely and securely. On Coronation Day, we will have the largest one-day mobilization of officers seen in decades with just over 11,500 officers on duty.”

An academic expert and some human rights campaigners and groups like Big Brother Watch who have kicked against the announced use of the technology say its deployment is worrying, according to a report by The Guardian.

The outlet quotes Emmanuelle Andrews of civil rights group Liberty, who says the live facial recognition deployment would limit the way people intend to make their voices heard as “facial recognition will be used to monitor anyone who wants to exercise their right to protest.”

The Met says it is deploying more than 29,000 police officers this week in the lead up to Coronation Day on Saturday and over the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend.

The police have come under criticism in the past over similar moves to use live facial recognition, such as during the Notting Hill carnival event in 2017 where 100,000 faces were said to have been scanned using the technology.

Recently, the Met police said it was considering the resumption of live facial recognition as part of its community-based approach to fighting crime after positive test results outlined in a research report.

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