Information Commissioner considers legal action against users of facial recognition technology

Elizabeth Denham said there was a ‘real risk’ that the public safety benefits of the state-of-the-art technology would be lost

In order to look into the issue, the commission would probably need someone to complain about the use of the technology, Mr Edwards said.

Big Brother Watch submitted freedom of information requests to every police force in the UK.

Automated facial recognition (AFR) technology used by London's Metropolitan Police is created to find persons of interests within large groups of people by comparing the biometrics of attendees caught on camera with information already stored on law enforcement databases.

"For the use of FRT to be legal, the police forces must have clear evidence to demonstrate that the use of FRT in public spaces is effective in resolving the problem that it aims to address, and that no less intrusive technology or methods are available to address that problem", she said.

The tests correctly identified a total of two people who appeared on police databases, but neither was a wanted criminal and no arrests were made, according to law enforcement documents obtained by the report's authors.

Started in New Zealand, Auror offers software platforms created to "help police and retail businesses collaborate and fight crime", its website says.

Two police forces acknowledged they were now testing facial recognition cameras. Furthermore, a facial recognition match can result in an individual being stopped in the street by the police and asked to prove their identity and thus their innocence.

The Metropolitan Police used facial recognition at London's Notting Hill Carnival in both 2016 and 2017, and also at a Remembrance Sunday event.

"When we first deployed and we were learning how to use it. some of the digital images we used weren't of sufficient quality", said Deputy Chief Constable Richard Lewis.

The 15 NGOs calling for police to stop using automated facial recognition are: Big Brother Watch, Article 19, defenddigitalme, Football Supporters Federation, Index on Censorship, Institute of Race Relations, Liberty, The Monitoring Group, Netpol, Open Rights Group, Police Action Lawyers Group, Race Equality Foundation, Race On The Agenda, Runnymede Trust, Tottenham Rights.

Police attempts to use cameras linked to databases to recognise peoples' faces are failing, with the wrong person picked nine times out 10, a report claims.

"On a much smaller number of occasions, officers went and spoke to the individual. realised it wasn't them, and offered them the opportunity to come and see the van".

"All alerts against the watch list are deleted after 30 days".

The SWP said that false positives were to be expected while the technology develops, but that the accuracy was improving, and added that no one had been arrested after a false match - again because of human intervention.

New data protection rules are about to come into force in the United Kingdom, requiring organizations to assess the risks of new technologies, particularly when biometric data is involved, and also to provide a data protection impact assessment to Denham's office in some circumstances.

Some in policing say facial recognition is the next big leap in law enforcement, akin to the revolution brought about by advances in DNA analysis.

A police spokesman confirmed they worked with Auror to reduce retail crime, and information retailers provided to the company's software system was also shared with police.

"Should my concerns not be addressed I will consider what legal action is needed to ensure the right protections are in place for the public", said Ms Denham.

The Home Office said that it plans to publish its biometrics strategy in June, and it "continues to support police to respond to changing criminal activity and new demands".

"When trialling facial recognition technologies, forces must show regard to relevant policies, including the Surveillance Camera Code of Practices and the Information Commissioner's guide", it said in a statement.

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