Report Finds UK Police Use of Live Facial Recognition Is Unlawful

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Live facial recognition (LFR) involves linking cameras to databases containing photos of people. Images from the cameras can then be checked against those photos to see if they match. The Minderoo Centre for Technology’s report says LFR should be banned from use in streets, airports and any public spaces – the very areas where police believe it would be most valuable. Critics warn it could lead to abuses of human rights on a huge scale, including against rights such as protest and freedom of assembly. China uses LFR as a tool for oppression.

Police should be banned from using live facial recognition technology in all public spaces because they are breaking ethical standards and human rights laws, a study has concluded.

LFR involves linking cameras to databases containing photos of people. Images from the cameras can then be checked against those photos to see if they match.

British police have experimented with the technology, believing it can help combat crime and terrorism. But in some cases, courts have found against the way police have used LFR, and how they have dealt with infringements of the privacy rights of people walking in the streets where the technology has been used. There are also concerns about racial bias.

The report, from the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, at the University of Cambridge, says LFR should be banned from use in streets, airports and any public spaces – the very areas where police believe it would be most valuable.

The study examined three deployments of LFR, one by the Metropolitan police and two by South Wales police. Both forces told the Guardian they had made improvements and believed in the benefits of LFR.

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