Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham has opened a formal investigation into the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) by the police after a series of trials across the UK.
Denham expressed “significant concern” over the effectiveness and legality of the technology, which was deployed at 2017’s year’s Notting Hill Carnival and Remembrance Sunday. It has been piloted by police in London, Humberside, South Wales and Leicestershire.
Previously, Denham said she would launch legal action against the Home Office and the National Police Chief’s Council over the invasive tech, which uses artificial intelligence to identify potential troublemakers by scanning thousands of faces recorded by surveillance cameras.
The ‘Face off: The lawless growth of facial recognition technology’ report suggested London’s Met police had a failure rate of 98% when trialling FRT at the Notting Hill Carnival, identifying 95 innocent people.
Similarly, the South Wales police had poor results when trialling FRT, misidentifying 2,400 innocent individuals and subsequently storing the data for a year without the individuals’ knowledge. More than 2,000 people were wrongly identified as possible criminals at the 2017 UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff.
Greater Transparency Needed in Use of FRT
In a blog post earlier this year, Denham expressed worry over how the technology was used in public spaces, saying: “It’s a real step change in the way law-abiding people are monitored as they go about their daily lives.
“There is a lack of transparency about its use and a real risk that the public safety benefits derived from the use of the technology will not be gained if public trust is not addressed.”
Jonathan Kewley, head of technology at law firm Clifford Chance, believes Denham will question the nature of how the images are being gathered, how they are being stored and what rights members of the public have to withdraw their images and enact the right to be forgotten.
Clifford added that it will be important to gain clarification on how the technology will be applied to vulnerable members of the public and children.