Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Facial recognition technology is "dangerously inaccurate"

Campaigners urge police to stop using facial recognition technology after figures say it is 'almost entirely inaccurate' Information Commissioner considers legal action against users of facial recognition technology
Laurie Berry | 16 May, 2018, 15:18

Big Brother Watch is calling for police to stop using facial recognition technology which it claims is "dangerous and inaccurate", after revealing potential human rights violations.

United Kingdom police facial recognition is lawless, undemocratic, and dangerously inaccurate.

A member of staff from the human rights organisation Liberty who observed the Met Police's operation at Notting Hill Carnival previous year claimed the technology led to at least 35 false positives, five people being unduly stopped and one wrongful arrest.

Big Brother Watch is calling for United Kingdom authorities to stop using automated facial recognition software with surveillance cameras.

But police have defended the technology and say safeguards are in place.

Freedom of Information requests by the Big Brother Watch organisation have shown that 91 per cent of so-called "matches" found by South Wales Police's technology were wrong.

Government minister Susan Williams - who once described the use of AFR as an "operational" decision for the police - said earlier this year the government is to create a board comprised of the information, biometrics and surveillance camera commissioners to oversee the tech. She singles out the use of the technology by law enforcement at public events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and the Champion's League final in Cardiff as examples of a significant change in surveillance practice, and says that a lack of transparency risks mitigating the benefits of facial recognition if public trust is not addressed.

Typically people on this list have mental health issues, and Big Brother Watch expressed concern that the police said there had not been prior consultation with mental health professionals about cross-matching against people in this database.

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Police have begun using automated facial recognition in city centres, at political demonstrations, sporting events and festivals over the past two years.

The product used by both police forces is called "NeoFace Watch", made by Japanese firm NEC.

"When we first deployed and we were learning how to use it. some of the digital images we used weren't of sufficient quality", said Deputy Chief Constable Richard Lewis. "They weren't able to get the detail from the picture".

"If an incorrect match has been made, officers will explain to the individual what has happened and invite them to see the equipment along with providing them with a Fair Processing Notice".

"Regarding "false" positive matches - we do not consider these as false positive matches because additional checks and balances are in place to confirm identification following system alerts", it said in a statement.

It also raised concerns that photos of any "false alarms" were sometimes kept by police for weeks.

Police facial recognition cameras have already been trialed at large events across the United Kingdom, including football matches and festivals. The majority of the people whose faces were scanned automatically were also not notified that the police system has "matched" them as targets. However, the British people will need to decide whether or not they want to live in a world where they are continuously watched, intrusively surveilled, and biometrically tracked, and think about how that may affect their fundamental rights.

The UK home office told the BBC it plans to publish its biometric strategy in June.

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