An office worker who believes his image was captured by facial recognition cameras when he popped out for a sandwich in his lunch break has launched a groundbreaking legal battle against the use of the technology. Supported by the campaign group Liberty, Ed Bridges, from Cardiff, raised money through crowdfunding to pursue the action, claiming the suspected use of the technology on him by South Wales police was an unlawful violation of privacy. Bridges, 36, claims he was distressed by the apparent use of the technology and is also arguing during a three-day hearing at Cardiff civil justice and family centre that it breaches data protection and equality laws. Facial recognition technology maps faces in a crowd and then compares them to a watchlist of images, which can include suspects, missing people and persons of interest to the police. The cameras scan faces in large crowds in public places such as streets, shopping centres, football crowds and music events such as the Notting Hill carnival.
Facial recognition cameras prevent crime, protect the public and do not breach the privacy of innocent people whose images are captured, a police force has argued. Ed Bridges, an office worker from Cardiff, claims South Wales police violated his privacy and data protection rights by using facial recognition technology on him. But Jeremy Johnson QC compared automated facial recognition (AFR) to the use of DNA to solve crimes and said it would have had little impact on Bridges. Johnson, representing the police, said: "AFR is a further technology that potentially has great utility for the prevention of crime, the apprehension of offenders and the protection of the public." The technology maps faces in a crowd and then compares them with a watch list of images, which can include suspects, missing people and persons of interest to the police.
Police use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds is lawful, the high court in Cardiff has ruled. Although the mass surveillance system interferes with the privacy rights of those scanned by security cameras, a judge has concluded, it is not illegal. The legal challenge was brought by Ed Bridges, a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Cardiff, who noticed the cameras when he went out to buy a lunchtime sandwich. He was supported by the human rights organisation Liberty. Bridges said he was distressed by police use of the technology, which he believes captured his image while out shopping and later at a peaceful protest against the arms trade.
Two legal challenges have been launched against police forces in south Wales and London over their use of automated facial recognition (AFR) technology on the grounds the surveillance is unregulated and violates privacy. The claims are backed by the human rights organisations Liberty and Big Brother Watch following complaints about biometric checks at the Notting Hill carnival, on Remembrance Sunday, at demonstrations and in high streets. Liberty is supporting Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident, who has written to the chief constable of South Wales police alleging he was tracked at a peaceful anti-arms protest and while out shopping. Big Brother Watch is working with the Green party peer Jenny Jones who has written to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, and the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, urging them to halt deployment of the "dangerously authoritarian" technology. If the forces do not stop using AFR systems then legal action will follow in the high court, the letters said.
When Wales takes on Ireland in the Six Nations rugby championship Saturday, Big Brother will be watching. Fans filing into the stadium in Cardiff will be scanned with facial recognition software as part of a police trial of the technology. Should any of their faces match a database of potential suspects, officers will be standing by, ready to swoop. It's the kind of indiscriminate mass surveillance that would be expected, in ordinary times, to be the subject of fierce debate in the U.K., as journalists and politicians fought over the proper balance between privacy and security. Instead, trial runs like the one in South Wales are taking place largely unchallenged by parliament.