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British lawmakers call for pause on use of live facial recognition

British lawmakers call for pause on use of live facial recognition

A coalition of 65 British lawmakers across all parties has called for a suspension of the use of live or “real-time” facial recognition surveillance on the country’s streets, according to Reuters. “We call on UK police and private companies to immediately stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance,” says a joint statement.

Signatories to the statement include Conservative Member of Parliament David Davis and Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, as well as Labor politicians and 31 human rights groups.

The cross-party endorsement comes after Minister for Policing Chris Philp suggested creating a searchable database of 45 million British passports that would use biometrics to identify criminals in a speech he delivered at the Conservative party’s annual conference.

Big Brother Watch claims that its research has found that over 89 percent of facial recognition alerts have falsely identified individuals as people of interest, with the majority of false matches affecting black boys and children. The organization said last month that Met Police’s facial recognition has an 84.7 percent false match rate. The group states those false matches are “identified … as people of interest,” though police facial recognition systems present candidates, rather than positive identifications (which is why matches on their own cannot constitute probable cause).

Big Brother Watch also refers to Metropolitan Police’s own testing of its facial recognition, which revealed higher levels of inaccuracy for people of color and women, but does not mention the most recent evaluation.

“As hosts of the AI summit in autumn, the UK should show leadership in adopting new technologies in a rights-respecting way, rather than a way that mirrors the dystopian surveillance practices of Saudi Arabia and China,” says the director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, who calls for “an urgent stop to live facial recognition, parliamentary scrutiny and a much wider democratic debate before we introduce such a privacy-altering technology to British life.”

Facial recognition has been used at several large-scale events in Britain like the coronation of King Charles II.

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament recently approved legislation that would ban the use of live facial recognition. Last month, 120 civil society organizations and 60 experts from around the world called for a stop to facial recognition from public spaces due to concerns about human rights.

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