Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading resource for security and fire news in the industry. James was previously Editor of Professional Heating & Plumbing Installer magazine.
February 4, 2020

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Facial Recognition

Facial recognition cameras to be deployed by London police

London’s Metropolitan Police is set to deploy the use of facial recognition technology for the first time, following trials in London and by South Wales Police. The Met says it will warn local citizens in advance and that cameras will be signposted, covering a “small, targeted area”.

Within the security industry, facial recognition technology has been growing in popularity and use for some time. More and more vendors are incorporating the technology into their devices as standard, but its use in the public sphere has always been subject to debate. Reports last year suggested that citizens in both the UK and US were generally in favour of facial recognition being used to support policework – as long as safeguards were put in place.

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There are also those who argue for its use to stop, particularly in public areas, with privacy campaigners saying it is “inaccurate, intrusive and infringes on an individual’s right to privacy”. Whilst reviews of facial recognition have suggested there are concerns over its accuracy.

However, as Griffeye discussed in a recent article on IFSEC Global, its use appears to have the potential to transform police case management and support the authorities in their ultimate goal in protecting the public.

Nick Ephgrave, Assistant Commissioner at the Met, highlighted that it has “a duty” to use new technologies to keep people safe, adding that research showed the public supported the move.

“We all want to live and work in a city which is safe: the public rightly expect us to use widely available technology to stop criminals,” he said. “Equally I have to be sure that we have the right safeguards and transparency in place to ensure that we protect people’s privacy and human rights. I believe our careful and considered deployment of live facial recognition strikes that balance.”

Mr Ephgrave also noted that the technology would primarily be used for serious and violent offenders at large, as well as missing children and vulnerable people. The cameras are set to be in use for between five and six hours at one time, with bespoke lists drawn up each time.

As many in the security sector have suggested, the technology itself isn’t necessarily the main concern – most people understand the potential benefits it offers, rather, it is how the data and intelligence the cameras pick up is stored and used that is under scrutiny.

It is likely that the Information Commissioner’s Office will be keeping a close eye on the Met’s use of facial recognition. Last year, commenting on the use of live facial recognition at King’s Cross without the public’s knowledge, Elizabeth Denham said: “Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law – and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way. They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.

“We support keeping people safe but new technologies and new uses of sensitive personal data must always be balanced against people’s legal rights.”

Additional IFSEC Global articles relating to the facial recognition debate

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