Home Secretary Backs Police Facial Recognition Trials

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has given his backing to police forces using facial recognition systems, despite growing concern about the technology.

The Home Secretary said that it was important that police made use of the latest tools to help them solve crimes, the BBC reported.

His endorsement comes after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) this week warned that any organisation using facial recognition technology, and which then scans large databases of people to check for a match, is processing personal data, and that “the potential threat to privacy should concern us all.”

Police Facial Recognition

A number of police forces are currently trailing the use of the technology, including the Met in London.

Live facial recognition (LFR) technology is also being used by South Wales Police, who in 2017 used facial recognition software at the Champions League Final in Cardiff to scan the face of every fan attending the game.

And the use of facial recognition systems by South Wales police in shopping centres is also currently under judicial review.

Last week an academic study found that 81 percent of ‘suspects’ flagged by Met’s police facial recognition technology are innocent, and that the overwhelming majority of people identified are not on police wanted lists.

But this has not deterred the Home Secretary who continues to back the use of the technology in comment made at the launch of new computer tech to help police fight against online child abuse.

He said it was right for forces to “be on top of the latest technology.”

“I back the police in looking at technology and trialling it and… different types of facial recognition technology is being trialled especially by the Met at the moment and I think it’s right they look at that,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.

But the Home Secretary admitted that the longer term use of the cameras would require legislation.

“If they want to take it further it’s also right that they come to government, we look at it carefully and we set out through Parliament how that can work,” he was quoted as saying.

Facial concerns

There are also doubts as to the effectiveness of facial recognition systems.

These systems has been previously criticised in the US after research by the Government Accountability Office found that FBI algorithms were inaccurate 14 percent of the time, as well as being more likely to misidentify black people.

Microsoft for example has recently refused to install facial recognition technology for a US police force, due to concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) bias.

And Redmond reportedly deleted a large facial recognition database, that was said to have contained 10 million images that were used to train facial recognition systems.

San Francisco meanwhile has banned the use of facial recognition technology, meaning that local agencies, such as the local police force and other city agencies such as transportation would not be able to utilise the technology in any of their systems.

And facial recognition can also be fooled as well. In 2017 Vietnamese cybersecurity firm said it had tricked the facial recognition feature on the iPhone X using a 3D-printed mask.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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