Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Facial recognition tech 'matched innocent people to criminals'

Facial recognition tech 'matched innocent people to criminals'

Big Brother Watch said police systems had wrongly flagged thousands of innocent people, and was concerned that photos dubbed as "false alarms" were sometimes kept by police for weeks.

"Automated facial recognition technology is now used by United Kingdom police forces without a clear legal basis, oversight or governmental strategy", the group said.

The accuracy of police facial recognition systems has been criticised by a United Kingdom privacy group.

However, the Met Police claimed that this figure is misleading because there is human intervention after the system flags up the match.

That figure is the highest of those given by United Kingdom police forces surveyed by the campaign group Big Brother Watch as part of a report that urges the the police to stop using the tech immediately. Big Brother Watch said that given the Home Office had forked out £2.6m to SWP for its AFR kit, they were also "hardly a convincing reason".

"It is deeply disturbing and undemocratic that police are using a technology that is nearly entirely inaccurate, that they have no legal power for, and that poses a major risk to our freedoms".

"If we move forward on this path, these systems will mistakenly identify innocent people as criminals or terrorists and will be used by unscrupulous governments to silence unwelcome voices".

The force used the software at Uefa Champions League 2017 final in Cardiff, worldwide rugby matches and Liam Gallagher and Kasabian concerts.

Leicestershire Police tested facial recognition in 2015, but is no longer using it at events. Deputy chief constable of South Wales police, Richard Lewis said: "When we first deployed and we were learning how to use it... some of the digital images we used weren't of sufficient quality". Because of the poor quality, it was identifying people wrongly. "They weren't able to get the detail from the picture".

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In March, Williams said that because images can only be deleted manually, weeding out innocent people "will have significant costs and be hard to justify given the off-setting reductions forces would be required to find to fund it".

"If an incorrect match has been made, officers will explain to the individual what has happened and invite them to see the equipment along with providing them with a Fair Processing Notice".

"At no time was anybody arrested wrongly, nobody's liberty was taken away from them".

Wired revealed earlier this month that during the UEFA Champions League Final last June, there were 2,470 alerts of possible matches, 2,297 false positives and 173 accurate identifications.

Computer databases of faces are linked to CCTV and other cameras and many see facial recognition as a positive advancement in terms of law enforcement, while privacy advocates have concerns around the technology being implemented. "Faces in the video stream that do not generate an alert are deleted immediately".

What does Big Brother Watch want?

On 31 occasions police followed up with people of concern only to find innocent people had been stopped due to false identifications. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and shadow policing minister Louise Haigh will speak about the campaign in Parliament this afternoon.

"When trialling facial recognition technologies, forces must show regard to relevant policies, including the Surveillance Camera Code of Practices and the Information Commissioner's guide", it said in a statement.

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