MPs call for halt to authorities’ use of facial recognition

Facial recognition Image copyright Reuters

The police and other authorities should suspend use of automatic facial recognition technologies, according to an influential group of MPs.

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee added there should be no further trials of the tech until relevant regulations were in place.

It raised accuracy and bias concerns.

And it warned that police forces were failing to edit a database of custody images to remove pictures of unconvicted individuals.

“It is unclear whether police forces are unaware of the requirement to review custody images every six years, or if they are simply ‘struggling to comply’,” the committee’s report said.

“What is clear, however, is that they have not been afforded any earmarked resources to assist with the manual review and weeding process.”

As a consequence, the MPs warned, innocent people’s pictures might illegally be included in facial recognition “watch lists” that are used in public spaces by the police to stop and even arrest suspects.

The committee noted that it had flagged similar concerns a year ago but had seen little progress from the Home Office since. By contrast, it said, the Scottish Executive had commissioned an independent review into how biometric data should be used and stored.

The report comes a week after the Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he backed police trials of facial recognition systems.

Earlier this month, the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the police’s use of live facial recognition tech raised “significant privacy and data protection issues” and might even breach data protection laws.

The civil rights group Liberty has also mounted a legal challenge to South Wales Police’s use of the technology.

And the Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter has criticised London’s Metropolitan Police’s tests saying: “We are heading towards a dystopian society where people aren’t trusted, where they are logged and their data signatures are tracked”.

More to follow



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