Civil society groups urge UK to ban live facial recognition technology
© WikiMedia (David Eaves)
Civil society groups urge UK to ban live facial recognition technology

Thirty-one UK and European-based civil society organizations have issued a letter to the UK Parliament calling for a ban on the use of live facial recognition technology (LFRT) by police and private companies.

The UK government recently issued a new code of practice to provide guidance on the use of surveillance camera systems and facial recognition technology. The new code states that “these systems are valuable tools which contribute to public safety and security, and in protecting both people and property.” The code attempts to lay out best practices and guiding principles to apply to the use of surveillance cameras in public spaces.

However, the civil society organizations “do not believe that LFRT can ever be safely deployed in public spaces and for mass surveillance purposes.” The organizations have concerns about privacy and data protection when it comes to such systems. They also point out that LFRT “raises significant problems for our human rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.” They also have concerns that LFRT could exacerbate already disproportionate police practices with regard to minority communities.

They particularly critique the lack of parliamentary scrutiny for the new LFRT policies. The organizations accuse the police and the Home Office of bypassing the parliament entirely in this matter, and they call upon members of parliament to demand debate on LFRT. The letter concludes that “Being able to choose when and how to disclose one’s identity, and to whom, is at the heart of a person’s dignity and autonomy.”

Last year, the UK Court of Appeals held that the South Wales Police Force’s use of facial recognition technology violated both human rights and data protection laws.