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.
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 information commissioner has expressed concern over the lack of a formal legal framework for the use of facial recognition cameras by the police. A barrister for the commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, told a court the current guidelines around automated facial recognition (AFR) technology were "ad hoc" and a clear code was needed. In a landmark case, Ed Bridges, an office worker from Cardiff, claims South Wales police violated his privacy and data protection rights by using AFR on him when he went to buy a sandwich during his lunch break and when he attended a peaceful anti-arms demonstration. The technology maps faces in a crowd and then compares them with a watchlist of images, which can include suspects, missing people or persons of interest to the police. The cameras have been used to scan faces in large crowds in public places such as streets, shopping centres, football crowds and music events such as the Notting Hill carnival.
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.