The City of Westminster Police force has confirmed in a tweet that it intends to use live facial recognition technology to police public events taking place over the coronation weekend. They said they have a ‘watch list’ of targets including people wanted for offences and people with outstanding arrest warrants.
This is despite the technology being widely criticised for breaching privacy, embedding racial bias, and being a disproportionate policing measure in a democratic society.
An audit into the use of the technology in October last year found the deployment of facial recognition by the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police failed to meet minimum ethical and legal standards and that the forces had insufficient legal frameworks to protect against the harms caused by their use of the technology. The authors of the report from the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy called for a ban on the police use of facial recognition in all publicly accessible spaces on the back of their research.
One of the report’s authors said: ‘There is a lack of robust redress mechanisms for individuals and communities harmed by police deployments of the technology. Given the ongoing use of facial recognition, we need to assess how police are using technology today’.
Despite these warnings, and similar warnings reported by The Justice Gap last November, police forces to continue to use facial recognition, even though there is currently no adequate legal framework for its use. There has never been any public or parliamentary scrutiny regarding the use of this technology in policing.
Human Rights organisation, Liberty, have long called for a ban on the use of all facial recognition technology, whether by police forces or private companies. They say the creation of a law to govern facial recognition ‘will not solve the human rights concerns or the tech’s in-built discrimination’.
Speaking to the Evening Standard this week, a spokesperson from Liberty said: ‘We all have the right to go about our lives without being watched and monitored, but everyone at the coronation is at risk of having their faces scanned by oppressive facial recognition technology’.
Campaign group Big Brother Watch released a statement in response to the Met’s announcement that they were considering using the technology on Wednesday, saying: ‘The hundreds of thousands of innocent people attending this historic event must not be treated like suspects in a line up and subjected to biometric police identity checks. The use of live facial recognition would have a serious chilling effect on the right to free speech on a day when thousands will be considering celebrating or protesting.’