London's Metropolitan Police will trial an automated facial recognition system to identify people at this weekend's Notting Hill Carnival. According to the Met, the AFR system at the Notting Hill Carnival:
Involves the use
of overt cameras which scan the faces of those passing by and flag up potential matches against a database of custody images. The database has been populated with images of individuals who are forbidden from attending Carnival, as well as individuals
wanted by police who it is believed may attend Carnival to commit offences.
If a match is made by the system, officers will be alerted, and will seek to speak with the individual to verify their identity, making an arrest if
Speaking to The Register , the government's Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Tony Porter, said that:
The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice requires relevant authorities such as Local
Authorities and Police Forces to ensure they use surveillance cameras effectively, efficiently and proportionately.
This is so communities can be sure that they are being protected by this technology rather than spied on. I would
expect any organisation that is using tools like automatic facial recognition to do so transparently so members of the public know it is being used and what its use is for.
The 'custody database' is a little more comprehensive than
the name suggests as the police have been adding images from other sources. In response to a Parliamentary question, Baroness Williams of Trafford reported that by 15 July this year, there were:
Over 19 million
custody images, Of these, 16,644,143 had been enrolled in the facial image recognition gallery and are searchable using automated facial recognition software.
This figure represents roughly a quarter of the UK's entire population.
The Metropolitan Police has announced it will use live facial recognition cameras operationally for the first time on London streets.
Following earlier pilots in London and deployments by South Wales police, the cameras are due to be put into action
within a month. Cameras will be clearly signposted, covering a small, targeted area, and police officers will hand out leaflets about the facial recognition scanning, the Met said.
Trials of the cameras have already taken place on 10 occasions in
locations such as Stratford's Westfield shopping centre and the West End of London. The Met said in these trials, 70% of wanted suspects in the system who walked past the cameras were identified, while only one in 1,000 people generated a false alert.
But an independent review of six of these deployments found that only eight out of 42 matches were verifiably correct.
Over the past four years, as the Met has trialled facial recognition, opposition to its use has intensified, led in the UK by
campaign groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch.
The force also believes a recent High Court judgment, which said South Wales Police did not breach the rights of a man whose face had been scanned by a camera, gives it some legal cover. The case is
heading for the Court of Appeal. But the Met is pressing on, convinced that the public at large will support its efforts to use facial recognition to track down serious offenders.
Last year, the Met admitted it supplied images for a database
carrying out facial recognition scans on a privately owned estate in King's Cross, after initially denying involvement.
It seems to the normal response from
the Information Commissioner's Office to turn a blind eye to the actual serious exploitation of people's personal data whilst focusing heavily on generating excessive quantities of red tape rules requiring small players to be ultra protective of personal
to point of strangling their businesses and livelihoods. And, just like for unconsented website tracking and profiling by the only advertising industry, the ICO will monitor and observe and comment again later in the year:
In October 2019 we concluded our investigation into how police use live facial recognition technology (LFR) in public places. Our investigation found there was public support for police use of LFR but also that there needed to be improvements in how
police authorised and deployed the technology if it was to retain public confidence and address privacy concerns. We set out our views in a formal Opinion for police forces.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has incorporated
the advice from our Opinion into its planning and preparation for future LFR use. Our Opinion acknowledges that an appropriately governed, targeted and intelligence- led deployment of LFR may meet the threshold of strict necessity for law enforcement
purposes. We have received assurances from the MPS that it is considering the impact of this technology and is taking steps to reduce intrusion and comply with the requirements of data protection legislation. We expect to receive further information from
the MPS regarding this matter in forthcoming days. The MPS has committed to us that it will review each deployment, and the ICO will continue to observe and monitor the arrangements for, and effectiveness of, its use.
This is an
important new technology with potentially significant privacy implications for UK citizens. We reiterate our call for Government to introduce a statutory and binding code of practice for LFR as a matter of priority. The code will ensure consistency in
how police forces use this technology and to improve clarity and foreseeability in its use for the public and police officers alike. We believe it's important for government to work with regulators, law enforcement, technology providers and communities
to support the code.
Facial recognition remains a high priority for the ICO and the public. We have several ongoing investigations. We will be publishing more about its use by the private sector later this year.
To: Priti Patel, Home Secretary and Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
Urgently stop the Metropolitan Police using live facial recognition surveillance.
Why is this important?
The Metropolitan Police has announced it will use live facial recognition across London, despite an independent review finding its previous trials likely unlawful and over 80% inaccurate. The Met is the largest police force in the
democratic world to roll out this dangerously authoritarian surveillance. This represents an enormous expansion of the surveillance state and a serious threat to civil liberties in the UK - and it sets a dangerous precedent worldwide. We urge the Home
Secretary and Met Commissioner to stop it now.