LONDON AND SOUTH WALES ROZZERS are potentially facing legal challenges over the use of automated facial recognition tech, due to accusations it's unregulated and wrecks civilian privacy.
Anti-surveillance organisation Liberty and Big Brother Watch are backing letters written to both forces demanding the removal of the technology in public places, threatening that, otherwise, court action will be pursued.
Liberty is backing ex-Lib Dem councillor Ed Bridges in taking on South Wales Police, and the Big Brother Watch is supporting Green Party peer Jenny Jones in tackling the Met's use of the technology.
Liberty reckons South Wales Police have used facial recognition tech some 20 times since May 2017, even using it to monitor people attending the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff, where the tech misidentified some 2,200 people as criminals... awkward.
Bridges was particularly vocal about the damaging effects automated facial recognition surveillance can have on the public, noting the technology often makes mistakes, potentially leading to discrimination.
"Police in my home city of Cardiff are using facial recognition technology to scan and store the faces of thousands of people as they go about their everyday lives," he said.
"They've been using this intrusive surveillance on shoppers, football fans and even peaceful protesters - without consulting the public or asking for their consent.
"There's no law adequately regulating police use of facial recognition. It's highly inaccurate and often misidentifies female and non-white faces. And it violates our fundamental rights to privacy, free expression and protest. It needs to stop now."
In response to such words, South Wales Police have been banding around a rather canned statement: "South Wales Police has received correspondence relating to the deployment of automated facial recognition technology which we will be responding to in due course."
"The force has been very cognisant of concerns surrounding privacy and are confident that our approach is lawful and proportionate."
We suspect that if legal challenges are levied at the Welsh coppers the courts won't necessarily agree, as while UK citizens are some of the most surveyed in the world, mass surveillance and snooping hasn't been met favourably by Britain's courts. The Snoopers' Charter 2.0, for example, had parts of it deemed illegal by courts after successful challenges were brought against it by privacy advocates.
Add into the mix that there's no obvious oversight, code of conduct or best practice in the use of facial recognition and its role in surveillance, we reckon the police forces will have a hard time defending their use of the tech.
To play devil's advocate, there's an argument to be had that such facial recognition tech is useful in finding missing people in urban areas or spotting people deemed a threat to the public out and about where they're not supposed to be. But then, as its always the case in such discussions, one has to weigh up whether mass snooping and surveillance is effective enough to provide safety at the expense of privacy.
Of course, we doubt your average South Walian gives a damn, as they're to busy singing in choirs or feeling sad that there're no mine left. And your average Londoner is probably too busy to care, too quietly angry at the tube to channel rage elsewhere, or too balls deep in artisan coffee and smashed avocado to care about that camera ogling them while they chow down of sourdough. µ
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