The silent growth of facial recognition technology within police forces poses a major risk to civil liberties and the rule of law in the UK, yet it is happening without hardly a whimper of public debate. That is why I used a Question for Short Debate to enable a discussion about this invasive new surveillance in UK public spaces.
Facial recognition cameras are essentially biometric checkpoints – no different to DNA or fingerprint checkpoints. They biometrically assess and check the identities of passers-by, turning us all into walking ID cards. No other democratic country has deployed automated facial recognition at the same rate as the UK – in fact, it was only recently that China began normalising the technology, to controversial reception. This growth of airport style security on our streets is unprecedented, and I believe, must
There is no clear statutory basis for police use of the technology; no policy or
regulation; no oversight mechanism; and even a lack of Government guidance or strategy. There has never, in fact, been any parliamentary consideration of automated facial recognition. The technology operates in a legal and policy void, escaping the usual structures of accountability.
Real-time facial recognition is also a remarkably crude and inaccurate technology. As Big Brother Watch has documented, it generates vast numbers of false positives for every positive match – currently, it could in fact considerably waste, rather than save, police time and resources.