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.
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.
British privacy activist Ed Bridges is set to appeal a landmark ruling that endorses the "sinister" use of facial recognition technology by the police to hunt for suspects. In what is believed to be the world's first case of its kind, Bridges told the High Court in Wales that the local police breached his rights by scanning his face without consent. "This sinister technology undermines our privacy and I will continue to fight against its unlawful use to ensure our rights are protected and we are free from disproportionate government surveillance," Bridges said in a statement. But judges said the police's use of facial recognition technology was lawful and legally justified. Civil rights group Liberty, which represented 36-year-old Bridges, said it would appeal the "disappointing" decision, while police chiefs said they understood the fears of the public.
Automated facial recognition poses one of the greatest threats to individual freedom and should be banned from use in public spaces, according to the director of the campaign group Liberty. Martha Spurrier, a human rights lawyer, said the technology had such fundamental problems that, despite police enthusiasm for the equipment, its use on the streets should not be permitted. She said: "I don't think it should ever be used. It is one of, if not the, greatest threats to individual freedom, partly because of the intimacy of the information it takes and hands to the state without your consent, and without even your knowledge, and partly because you don't know what is done with that information." Police in England and Wales have used automated facial recognition (AFR) to scan crowds for suspected criminals in trials in city centres, at music festivals, sports events and elsewhere.
A man from Cardiff, UK, says the police breached his human rights when they used facial recognition technology, but today a court ruled that the police's actions were lawful. That is, however, hardly the end of the matter. South Wales Police has been trialling automated facial recognition (AFR) technology since April 2017. Other forces around the country are trialling similar systems, including London's Metropolitan Police. Bridges may have been snapped during a pilot called AFR Locate.