BLIGHTY'S BIOMETRICS COMMISSIONER Paul Wiles sounded the alarms about the "chaotic" way in which police forces have been using facial recognition.
In his annual report [PDF], Wiles also voiced concern over the lack of clear rules for government use of biometric databases, which poses "clear risks of abuse" and risks to civil liberties.
In the UK, the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police have already trialled facial recognition at public events, including the Champions League Final at Cardiff's Millenniums Stadium and the Notting Hill Carnival in London. However, both forces have been challenged in court regarding the use of technology.
The Met Police are facing legal action over its use of facial recognition in public by campaign group Big Brother Watch.
According to Wiles, police deployment of facial recognition ran ahead of the law. In the absence of a legal framework, it has been left to the police to determine whether the public benefit outweighs the "significant intrusion into an individual's privacy".
I agree with him that a clear and specific legal framework must be put in place to govern the use of such technology. https://t.co/BZkhshRq2b— David Davis (@DavidDavisMP) June 27, 2019
Wiles also raised his concern over the Ministry of Defence (MoD) searching the police national fingerprint database without an agreed lawful basis.
The MoD uses the database to verify whether fingerprints taken during a foreign military operation match an individual known to the police or immigration authorities. Wiles said that he has challenged the MoD several times in recent months over the direct access granted to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to search the police's fingerprint databases.
The report also highlights the "serious risk" that public safety has been put at because of the failure of police to collect DNA samples from people suspected of violence, rape and sex offences.
Seven years ago, the Home Office introduced restrictions on police officers' right to arrest suspects. Because of those rules, as well as the restrictions on the use of police bail, there have been increasing instances where suspects are asked to come for "voluntary interviews" rather than being arrested by the police.
Wiles warned that fewer DNA profiles and fingerprints collection "will lead to a long-term decline in the utility of police biometrics".
Responding to the issues raised by Wiles in his annual report Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State for Countering Extremism, commented: "This year the government has been working to improve governance and oversight arrangements of biometrics in particular new emerging biometrics".
"This includes setting up the Law Enforcement Facial Images and New Biometrics Oversight and Advisory Board to improve coordination between relevant parties on top of existing arrangements for fingerprints and DNA for which you have statutory responsibilities."
Biometrics enables individuals to be identified based on a set of verifiable and recognisable data, which are specific and unique to them.
Biometrics includes unique bodily features, such as gait, voice and face. Facial recognition is one aspect of biometrics technology, which can be used to scan crowds or CCTV footage to search for people of interest. However, the accuracy of such technology has often been called into question. µ
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