THE MET POLICE is facing renewed calls to suspend its use of facial recognition technology after a report found that four out of five people identified as possible suspects were innocent.
While this 80 per cent failure rate is an improvement on the 98 per cent rate reported last year, it continues to raise concerns about the live facial recognition (LFR), which has long been slammed as "dangerously authoritarian."
The report, put together by academics at the University of Essex and shared with Sky News and the Guardian, found that the technology made only eight out of 42 matches correctly across six trials evaluated - an error rate of 81 per cent.
The co-authors, Professor Peter Fussey and Dr Daragh Murray, also warned of "significant shortcomings" in the Met's process of gaining meaningful consent, and said that watchlists used by cops were sometimes out of date and included people considered "at risk or vulnerable."
The report concludes that it is "highly possible" the Met's usage of the system would be found unlawful if challenged in court, and calls for all live trials of LFR to be suspended until the concerns are addressed.
This is echoed by David Davis MP, a former shadow home secretary, who said the research by the University of Essex's Human Rights Centre showed that LFR tech "could lead to miscarriages of justice and wrongful arrests" and poses "massive issues for democracy".
"All experiments like this should now be suspended until we have a proper chance to debate this and establish some laws and regulations," he said. "Remember what these rights are: freedom of association and freedom to protest; rights which we have assumed for centuries which shouldn't be intruded upon without a good reason."
Commenting on the findings, Duncan Ball, the Met's deputy assistant commissioner, said: "We are extremely disappointed with the negative and unbalanced tone of this report... We have a legal basis for this pilot period and have taken legal advice throughout.
"We believe the public would absolutely expect us to try innovative methods of crime fighting in order to make London safer."
Big Brother Watch, which has filed a legal challenge against the Met's use of LFR tech claiming it breaches the rights of individuals under the Human Rights Act, said the report is "absolutely definitive".
"I think there is really no recovery from this point," said the group's director Silkie Carlo. "The only question now is when is the Met finally going to commit to stop using facial recognition."
The release of this report comes just weeks after ex-Lib Dem councillor Ed Bridges, supported by campaign group Liberty, launched the first legal challenge against the "intrusive" surveillance technology.
He believes his image was captured by South Wales Police while he was shopping in Cardiff, and later at a peaceful protest against the arms trade, and will argue that the use of the technology on him was an unlawful violation of privacy. µ
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