Politicians, Activists Call For ‘Immediate Stop’ To Live Face Recognition

The Tech Of Crime Part 2: Policing And Data

Cross-party politicians, campaign groups call for ‘immediate stop’ to live facial recognition amidst government plans for searchable UK passport photos

Cross-party politicians and activists have called for the “immediate stop” to the use of live facial recognition by police and private firms.

The calls came after the government announced plans to make UK passport photos searchable by police.

Some 65 members of the House of Commons and House of Lords from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties joined the call along with campaign groups including Amnesty, Index on Censorship and Big Brother Watch.

They raised concerns about human rights, the potential for discrimination and the “lack of a democratic mandate” for the technology.

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Image credit: Unsplash

‘Lack of safeguards’

Police have used live facial recognition at large public events including King Charles’ coronation.

In a statement, the participating people and organisations said: “We hold differing views about live facial recognition surveillance, ranging from serious concerns about its incompatibility with human rights, to the potential for discriminatory impact, the lack of safeguards, the lack of an evidence base, an unproven case of necessity or proportionality, the lack of a sufficient legal basis, the lack of parliamentary consideration, and the lack of a democratic mandate.

“We call on UK police and private companies to immediately stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance.”

Policing minister Chris Philp last week said the government planned to integrate data from the police national database (PND), the Passport Office and other national databases to allow police to find a match with the “click of one button”.

‘Robust legal framework’

Campaigners said the plans would be an “Orwellian nightmare” and a “gross violation of British privacy principles”.

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said the UK’s approach to facial recognition was “reckless”.

“As hosts of the AI summit in autumn, the UK should show leadership in adopting new technologies in a rights-respecting way,” she said.

“There must be an urgent stop to live facial recognition, parliamentary scrutiny and a much wider democratic debate before we introduce such a privacy-altering technology to British life.”

The Home Office told the BBC the technology had a “robust legal framework”, adding: “Facial recognition, including live facial recognition, has a sound legal basis that has been confirmed by the courts and has already enabled a large number of serious criminals to be caught.”