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The UK May Ban Facial Recognition Technology

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The United Kingdom may eventually be toeing the line of American city San Francisco in getting rid of facial recognition technology.


A British landmark court is hearing a legal challenge against UK police on the facial recognition technology. They believe that police are breaking human rights law with the use of the software.


Security took the image of a man, Ed Bridges, while he was shopping. He took the first legal action against the technology. In 2018, cameras used by the British South Wales Police at an anti-arms trade protest scanned him. Incidentally, Bridges was also Christmas Shopping around the same location in Cardiff.


Ed Bridges
Ed Bridges

Bridges has a problem with the facial recognition technology being using without any warnings. He said,

“It’s hard to see how the police could possibly such a disproportionate use of such an intrusive surveillance tool like this. We hope that the court will agree with us thajustify t unlawful use of facial recognition must end, and our rights must be respected.”


Lawyers have subsequently accused the UK police of violating Bridges’ privacy and data protection rights by processing an image of him taken in public. One of the lawyers, Dan Squires QC, told the Cardiff Administrative Court that automatic facial recognition (AFR) allowed the police to monitor people’s activity in public in a more advanced way without getting consent.


Squires QC said,

“The reason AFR represents such a step change is you are able to capture almost instantaneously the biometric data of thousands of people. It has profound consequences for privacy and data protection rights. The legal framework, which currently applies to the use of AFR by the police, does not ensure those rights are sufficiently protected.”


He added that Bridges had reasonable expectation to not want his face scanned in a public space. This is especially as he has not fallen suspect to any wrongdoings.


Facial Recognition


Squires QC believes that the police violated one of the human right laws. He quoted ‘the article eight of the Human Rights Act – respect for privacy – as well as the Data Protection Act.’ He argued that there was no statutory power permitting the South Wales Police to perform scans of people’s faces without their consent.


The facial recognition scans faces from live camera footage. It then compares the results with images from the police database. Reportedly, the South Wales Police used facial recognition about 40 times since the trial began in May 2017.


However, the police have argued that the use of facial recognition technology does not violate any privacy or data protection rights. They added there was no difference between that and taking photos of people’s activities in public.


The police explained that it retains the data gotten for up to 31 days upon confirmation of no wrongdoing.


Bridges was able to raise £6,000 for the court case via a fundraising site.


Similarly, the London Metropolitan Police is in a legal battle over facial recognition technology. A very inaccurate 96% of scans wrongly identified members of the public as criminals.

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