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Met police face legal challenge over ‘Orwellian’ facial recognition system

PRIVACY CAMPAIGNING GROUP Big Brother Watch has launched a legal challenge against the Met’s “dangerously authoritarian” facial recognition cameras.

The organisation is calling on the UK government and Metropolitan Police to “immediately end” the force’s use of real-time facial recognition cameras. 

The Met plans to dramatically increase its use of facial recognition with seven more deployments planned for the next five months, while the Home Office has spent £2.6m encouraging police to use automated facial recognition (AFR) technology. 

“These cameras are biometric checkpoints, identifying members of the public without their knowledge,” Big Brother Watch said. “Police have begun feeding secret watchlists to the cameras, containing not only criminals but suspects, protesters, football fans and innocent people with mental health problems.”

The group, which has joined forces with Baroness Jenny Jones to fight its case, cites the use of the “China-style” AFR at London’s Notting Hill Carnival, claiming the police “don’t have a lawful basis for using them”.

Lawyers for Big Brother Watch also argue that the technology, which uses and stores photos of innocent members of the public, breaches the rights of individuals under the Human Rights Act, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression.

AFR isn’t just a privacy nightmare, as Big Brother Watch also claims the tech is “disastrously inaccurate”, wrongly matching innocent people 98 per cent of the time. What’s more, the Met’s own research, published in May, shows that during trials only two genuine matches were made out of 104 system “alerts”.

“In a step change for policing in the UK, those photos of innocent people wrongly matched are being stored for one to 12 months on police databases,” the group says. 

Silkie Carlo, director of the civil liberties group, said: “When the police use facial recognition surveillance they subject thousands of people in the area to highly sensitive identity checks without consent.”

“We’re hoping the court will intervene, so the lawless use of facial recognition can be stopped. It is crucial our public freedoms are protected,” she added.

Big Brother Watch is crowdfunding its legal fight, and is asking for privacy-concerned Brits to help it reach its £10,000 target. At the time of publication, the group has raised more than £5,000. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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