When Wales takes on Ireland in the Six Nations rugby championship Saturday, Big Brother will be watching. Fans filing into the stadium in Cardiff will be scanned with facial recognition software as part of a police trial of the technology. Should any of their faces match a database of potential suspects, officers will be standing by, ready to swoop. It's the kind of indiscriminate mass surveillance that would be expected, in ordinary times, to be the subject of fierce debate in the U.K., as journalists and politicians fought over the proper balance between privacy and security. Instead, trial runs like the one in South Wales are taking place largely unchallenged by parliament.
At the end of each summer for the last 14 years, the small Welsh town of Porthcawl has been invaded. Every year its 16,000 population is swamped by up to 35,000 Elvis fans. Many people attending the yearly festival look the same: they slick back their hair, throw on oversized sunglasses and don white flares. At 2017's Elvis festival, impersonators were faced with something different. Police were trialling automated facial recognition technology to track down criminals.
Facial recognition technology used by the UK police is making thousands of mistakes, a new report has found. South Wales Police, London's Met and Leicestershire are all trialling automated facial recognition systems in public places to identify wanted criminals. According to police figures, the system often makes more incorrect matches than correct ones. Experts warned the technology could lead to false arrests and described it as a'dangerously inaccurate policing tool'. South Wales Police has been testing an automated facial recognition system.
Police have used facial recognition technology to arrest a man for the first time in the UK. The arrest was made May 31 but police didn't release many details, probably because the investigation is ongoing. South Wales Police have been trialling the technology, known as AFR (Automatic Facial Recognition), for the past 18 months. And UK police have been testing facial recognition technology for a while, raising privacy and security concerns among civil rights organisations and members of the public. At the end of May, law enforcement announced a partnership with the company NEC to test AFR during the Champions League finals week in Cardiff.