Landmark hearing finds use of facial recognition technology lawful

5th September 2019
Alex Lynn

This week, the High Court has ruled in favour of the South Wales Police to allow the continued use of Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) – the controversial technology which enables mass crowd surveillance, in response to a judicial review held in May by local man, Ed Bridges.

This comes as police forces across the nation recognise the potential biometrics has to improve the quality and efficiency of policing whilst reducing costs, with the UK Home Office planning to funnel £97m into a wider biometric technology strategy to safeguard our streets.

Jason Tooley, Chief Revenue Officer at Veridium and Board Member of techUK, said: “South Wales Police has won the world’s first legal challenge over the use of facial recognition, in a victory for technology innovation. As police forces recognise that biometrics can drive improved policing, there is evidently a need to focus on how the technology can be implemented quickly by officers whilst gaining widespread public acceptance. The use of biometrics has been proven to greatly enhance identity verification at scale, as seen in many countries where officers currently use consumer technology to verify suspects on-demand.

“As part of a broader digital policing initiative, it is imperative for police forces to take a strategic approach as they trial biometric technologies, and not prematurely focus on one biometric approach. Digital fingerprint based authentication is still widely regarded as having a higher level of maturity. It delivers a lower false positive result and ensures a higher level of public consent due to its maturity as an identity verification technique. Facial recognition, when used as a stand-alone biometric, can suffer from the risk of challenge or refusal to accept, with issues such as gender and racial bias, or scenarios such as poor lighting and wearing accessories impacting on reliability.

“It is clear that alleviating human rights and privacy concerns over facial recognition must be prioritised by the police. Citizens need to understand that the value add of this innovative technology is in the public interest, which will drive consent and acceptance. With the rapid rate of innovation in the field, an open biometric strategy that allows the police to select the right biometric techniques for the right scenario will fast-track the benefits associated with digital policing.”

However, despite this positive outcome for South Wales Police, the effectiveness of facial recognition technology continues being challenged, with the recent scandal at King’s Cross station leading police forces across the country to abandon AFR trials. This outcry has highlighted that for the police to achieve the desired results, acceptance of the use of biometrics is just as important as the maturing of the technology, according to Jason Tooley, Chief Revenue Officer at Veridium.

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