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Calls for facial recognition technology to be used only for serious crime

The UK Information Commissioner is leading calls for facial recognition technology to only be used by the police force to target severe crimes and has demanded a new statutory code to protect people’s privacy.

Elizabeth Denham has issued a warning to the police that they should not be opportunistically using the technology to scan thousands of people in public places in a bid to catch a few people of interest.

South Wales Police, the Metropolitan Police and Leicestershire’s constabulary have all conducted public trials of the cameras.

However, evidence has emerged of police sharing images of suspects with private sector firms such as at King’s Cross in London, Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield and the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

The commissioner believes that the public should also be told when, where and why the cameras are being deployed by police and that any images taken of people in public places who are not of interest should be immediately deleted.

She is also demanding that the images in police databases of around 21 million people who have been arrested but never charged to be deleted and not used as part of the computer algorithms which help police match images from the cameras.

The Information Commissioner said: “Live facial recognition (LFR) is a steep change in policing techniques; never before have we seen technologies with the potential for such widespread invasiveness.

“We found that the current combination of laws, codes and practices relating to LFR will not drive the ethical and legal approach that’s needed to truly manage the risk that this technology presents.

“The absence of a statutory code that speaks to the specific challenges posed by LFR will increase the likelihood of legal failures and undermine public confidence in its use.”

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Andrew Sharp

Andrew Sharp

Associate Director - Head of Criminal Department
I was born and brought up in Coventry before graduating in law from Bristol University in 1976. I qualified as a solicitor in 1979 and became a partner in 1982.

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