THE METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE has admitted that it doesn't know how many facial recognition matches there were after it shared images of seven people with the management of the King's Cross Estate development.
So presumably somewhere between zero and seven, then. Though given past form, the clever money would be on zero.
In a new report, the Met stated that the seven images were of "persons who had been arrested and charged/cautioned/reprimanded or given a formal warning." These images were shared by Camden Borough Police in order to "prevent crime, to protect vulnerable members of the community or to support the safety strategy."
That's the theory, anyway. But given even the Met Police has conceded that facial recognition technology is dreadful at making matches, that feels like a tall order. It's like putting up a "no elephants allowed" sign: you may see fewer elephants than before, but correlation isn't the same as causation.
In any case, we simply don't know if the doomed project was successful or not, because the Met simply kept no record of whether there were any matches with the photos supplied, or if any police action was taken as a result. "The findings of this report need to be caveated by noting the limitations of technology which was not designed to be audited in this way, and the limitations of corporate memory." Hmmm.
It's not great PR for facial recognition, and the way its been handled here has probably set the technological rollout back by some time. Indeed, Sophie Linden, London's deputy mayor for policing and crime told the BBC that the tech was essentially frozen in the capital.
"The Mayor and I are committed to holding the Met to account on its use of facial recognition technology and that's why the [Met's] commissioner agrees with us that there will be no further deployment anywhere in London until all of the conditions set out in the London Policing Ethics Panel report have been addressed," she said in a sentence that could really have done with at least one more full stop. µ
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