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UK police force claims facial recognition generating hundreds of leads

UK police force claims facial recognition generating hundreds of leads

The UK’s South Wales Police (SWP) is reportedly getting 140 matches a month using retrospective (or “forensic”) facial recognition technology, according to an interview reported by Police Oracle. 

The chief constable at the SWP, Jeremy Vaughan, told the Welsh Affairs Committee that the technology is being used for a variety of investigations, including of serious offenses such as rape.

He explained that by using facial technology retrospectively, they have caught sex offenders on buses, trains, and outside of school playgrounds.

Vaughan explained how these images, typically captured from sources like CCTV, mobile phones, and social media, are compared against 600,000 images held by the SWP and the Gwent police force.

The chief also outlined how the force uses the technology, saying there is “a clear escalation/authorization process for who’s on the watch list” and that it doesn’t retain people’s data.

The SWP resumed using live facial recognition in April of this year, a technology that has been controversial in the UK due to accusations of racial bias.

Though a third-party report found that there was no evidence of significant bias by the technology, this hasn’t stopped harsh and continued criticism from human rights campaigners such as Big Brother Watch.

Despite the criticisms of bias, Vaughan defended the technology during the interview, saying, “We’re duty bound to use whatever technology we can — within the law — to protect the public.” “I include facial recognition in that,” he adds.

The police leader recommends the introduction of an internal Code of Practice within the police force to stop the tech from being misused, as this would be quick to implement and approve.

This post was updated at 9:03am Eastern on July 17, 2023 to clarify that South Wales Police use facial recognition to investigate a variety of crimes.

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