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AFP
November 19, 2019

Facial recognition makes subtle advance in Britain

World

AFP
November 19, 2019

LONDON: The experiment was conducted discreetly. Between 2016 and 2018, two surveillance cameras were installed in the Kings Cross area of London to analyse and track passers-by using facial recognition technology.

The deployment of the cutting-edge technology at one of the British capital´s busiest transport hubs, which was first revealed in the Financial Times, has fuelled controversy in Britain where its use does not yet have a legal framework.

The company in charge of the project argued it has acted “only to help the police... prevent and detect crimes in the area”, and that it had no commercial use. But data watchdog the Information Commissioner´s Office (ICO) seized on the case.

It opened an investigation and expressed concern about the increasing use of facial recognition, which allows for faces captured on camera to be compared with images stored to databases. The Kings Cross case is not isolated, with shopping centres in Manchester and Sheffield, and a museum in Liverpool, also reportedly trialling the technology. Privacy group Big Brother Watch has denounced the trend as an “epidemic”, with other critics warning it risks undermining fundamental rights.

Ed Bridges, 36, has sued Welsh police for targeting him with this technology while he was Christmas shopping in 2017 and at a protest in 2018, with his case working its way through the High Court in Cardiff.

This is the first time that such action has been brought in British courts. Although the police use was authorised and advertised, the Cardiff University employee told AFP it felt like “being robbed”. “This is not something I had consented to,” Bridges said.

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