London's Metropolitan Police Service says it does not have any records of the outcomes of a facial recognition tie-up with a private firm in the city. Last month, it acknowledged it had shared people's pictures with the managers of the city's King's Cross Estate development. It had previously denied the alliance. In a new report, the Met added that it had only shared seven images and did not believe there had been similar arrangements with other private bodies. It said the pictures were of "persons who had been arrested and charged/cautioned/reprimanded or given a formal warning" and had been provided by Camden Borough Police.
There is growing pressure for more details about the use of facial recognition in London's King's Cross to be disclosed after a watchdog described the deployment as "alarming". Developer Argent has confirmed it uses the technology to "ensure public safety" but did not reveal any details. It raises the issue of how private land used by the public is monitored. The UK's biometrics commissioner said the government needed to update the laws surrounding the technology. Argent is responsible for a 67-acre site close to King's Cross station.
The UK's privacy watchdog has opened an investigation into the use of facial recognition cameras in a busy part of central London. The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced she would look into the technology being used in Granary Square, close to King's Cross station. Two days ago the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wrote to the development's owner demanding to know whether the company believed its use of facial recognition software in its CCTV systems was legal. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it was "deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces" and was seeking detailed information about how it is used. "Scanning people's faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all," Denham said.
Facial recognition technology will not be deployed at the King's Cross development in the future, following a backlash prompted by the site owner's admission last month that the software had been used in its CCTV systems. The developer behind the prestigious central London site said the surveillance software had been used between May 2016 and March 2018 in two cameras on a busy pedestrian street running through its heart. It said it had abandoned plans for a wider deployment across the 67-acre, 50-building site and had "no plans to reintroduce any form of facial recognition technology at the King's Cross Estate". The site became embroiled in the debate about the ethics of facial recognition three weeks ago after releasing a short statement saying its cameras "use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition". That made it one of the first landowners to acknowledge it was deploying the software, described by human rights groups as authoritarian, partly because it captures and analyses images of people without their consent.
Images of seven people were passed on by local police for use in a facial recognition system at King's Cross in London in an agreement that was struck in secret, the details of which were made public for the first time today. A police report, published by the deputy London mayor Sophie Linden on Friday, showed that the scheme ran for two years from 2016 without any apparent central oversight from either the Metropolitan police or the office of the mayor, Sadiq Khan. Writing to London assembly members, Linden said she "wanted to pass on the [Metropolitan police service's] apology" for failing to previously disclose that the scheme existed and announced that similar local image sharing agreements were now banned. There had been "no other examples of images having been shared with private companies for facial recognition purposes" by the Met, Linden said, according to "the best of its knowledge and record-keeping". The surveillance scheme – controversial because it involved tracking individuals without their consent – was originally agreed between borough police in Camden and the owner of the 27-hectare King's Cross site in 2016.