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Privacy advocates and conservatives unhappy with passport face-match idea

Privacy advocates and conservatives unhappy with passport face-match idea

Early reactions to a report that the UK’s police minister wants people in a permanent biometric crime lineup are not overly positive.

It is being called “Orwellian” in the opinion outlet The European Conservative, for example.

Minister Chris Philp has said he wants, within two years, infrastructure and software in place that enables police to compare CCTV images against the nation’s passport and immigration photo databases.

Philp has said there are no legal restrictions stopping the plan. The College of Policing, a professional organization, reportedly has said English and Welsh forces will be told to consider any useful data source to solve thefts and other crimes.

Others in the government say this might be the wrong step in deploying facial recognition software that is trusted by people.

Speaking to the BBC, Fraser Sampson, commissioner for the retention and use of biometric material, said it would be unfortunate for passport holders to feel like they were in a never-ending police lineup.

“If the state routinely runs every photograph against every picture of every suspected incident of crime simply because it can, there is a significant risk of disproportionality and of damaging public trust,” Sampson reportedly told the BBC.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy manager at the civil rights group Liberty, reportedly told the BBC, “History has told us this technology will be used disproportionately by the police to monitor and harass minority groups, and particularly people of color. Expanding it will put many more people in harm’s way.”

According to The Conservative, the UK’s conservative-led government is already planning to open more biometric databases like that of the passport office, which has 45 million citizen’s photos.

Conservatives are still angry that their chosen prime minister during the Covid crisis had imposed restrictions on aspects of daily life needed to lessen the pandemic’s death count, according to the publication. The implication is that they might be ready for a new fight to derail this idea.

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