Earlier this month, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition technology in police investigations, and now the UK is looking into the matter as a human rights group sues local police for fear that the country could be following in the footsteps of China, writes the BBC.
Human rights advocacy group Liberty is taking the South Wales police to Cardiff Administrative Court following the department’s efforts to deploy automated facial recognition technology to create a database of biometrics to use in real time in police surveillance. Liberty brought the court case in support of UK citizen Ed Bridges, who feels his privacy was breached after having his image snatched twice.
The group is concerned law enforcement gave too little information on how the data will be used, and considers it an invasion of privacy, especially in the case of minorities that can be misidentified. They give the example of the Champions League final in Cardiff in 2017 where 92 percent of matches were inaccurate.
What’s more, Liberty claims the procedure is similar to collecting fingerprints and DNA without consent. They also argue that law enforcement did not explain where the watch list images come from, claiming some are taken from social media.
“If you are a woman or from an ethnic minority and you walk past the camera, you are more likely to be identified as someone on a watch list, even if you are not,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer from the civil liberties group Liberty. “That means you are more likely to be stopped and interrogated by the police. This is another tool by which social bias will be entrenched and communities who are already over-policed simply get over-policed further.”
The tool collects facial images and compares them to faces in public, crowded areas like streets and concerts to match with wanted suspects, but according to the South Wales police website, the software “can’t be used to identify persons unless they are in a watch list.”
“If there are hundreds of people walking the streets who should be in prison because there are outstanding warrants for their arrest, or dangerous criminals bent on harming others in public places, the proper use of AFR has a vital policing role,” explained Chris Phillips, former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office. “The police need guidance to ensure this vital anti-crime tool is used lawfully.”
Other police departments deploying automated facial recognition are Metropolitan Police and Leicestershire Police. The South Wales police did not comment on the case.