Facial recognition technology is spreading fast. Already widespread in China, software that identifies people by comparing images of their faces against a database of records is now being adopted across much of the rest of the world. It's common among police forces but has also been used at airports, railway stations and shopping centres. The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on a political culture based on rights and democracy.
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.
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.
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.