The metropolitan police in the city of London have announced that the facial recognition technology has passed the trial phase and is now going to be permanently integrated into everyday policing. Cameras will be placed in popular locations, which foster high amounts of tourists and shoppers, such as Stratford’s Westfield shopping center. Each of these cameras will scan people’s faces and niche out individuals that are “wanted for serious and violent offences,” according to Met.
As soon as an individual of interest is spotted, the cameras will flag them, and police officers will approach and ask for them to verify their identity. If the person happens to be on the watch list, they will be arrested. The metropolitan police say, “This is a system which simply gives police officers a ‘prompt’, suggesting ‘that person over there may be the person you’re looking for.’”
The cameras will be used for five or six hours at a time according to BBC News, but the Met states that this technology will be used on a daily basis from now on.
“As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London,” said the Met’s assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave said in a press statement. “Every day, our police officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for; [facial recognition] improves the effectiveness of this tactic.”
Previously, facial recognition technology by the law enforcement in the UK, was limited to small trials and public events such as concerts and football matches. The use of the technology was criticized heavily, since the data from the trial indicated that 81% of “matches” suggested by the technology, were false.
Nevertheless, the Met mentions that the technology is “tried and tested” and the rate of false alerts fell to one in every 1,000 cases. Privacy advocates are also not happy with the technology and describe its deployment as an attack on civil liberties. According to tech experts and privacy advocates around the world, the technology is racially biased and misused by the police. Moreover, even huge tech companies such as Google back a moratorium on the technology.
“This decision represents an enormous expansion of the surveillance state and a serious threat to civil liberties in the UK,” Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, told The Daily Mail. “This is a breath-taking assault on our rights, and we will challenge it, including by urgently considering next steps in our ongoing legal claim against the Met and the Home Secretary. This move instantly stains the new Government’s human rights record and we urge an immediate reconsideration.”