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.
The last day of January 2019 was sunny, yet bitterly cold in Romford, east London. Shoppers scurrying from retailer to retailer wrapped themselves in winter coats, scarves and hats. The temperature never rose above three degrees Celsius. For police officers positioned next to an inconspicuous blue van, just metres from Romford's Overground station, one man stood out among the thin winter crowds. The man, wearing a beige jacket and blue cap, had pulled his jacket over his face as he moved in the direction of the police officers.
The first legal battle in the UK over police use of face recognition technology will begin today. Ed Bridges has crowdfunded action against South Wales Police over claims that the use of the technology on him was an unlawful violation of privacy. He will also argue it breaches data protection and equality laws during a three-day hearing at Cardiff Civil Justice and Family Centre. Face recognition technology maps faces in a crowd then compares results with a "watch list" of images which can include suspects, missing people and persons of interest. Police who have trialled the technology hope it can help tackle crime but campaigners argue it breaches privacy and civil liberty.
The use of automatic facial recognition (AFR) technology by South Wales Police is unlawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled. It follows a legal challenge brought by civil rights group Liberty and Ed Bridges, 37, from Cardiff. But the court also found its use was proportionate interference with human rights as the benefits outweighed the impact on Mr Bridges. South Wales Police said it would not be appealing the findings. Mr Bridges had said being identified by AFR caused him distress.