Great Britain’s three nations are not in agreement over the use of facial recognition technology by police forces.
The technology, which can be legally used by police in Wales, was officially introduced by England’s Metropolitan Police Service in East London yesterday, amid a peaceful protest by Big Brother Watch.
Use of the technology by English police forces has not been debated in parliament or approved by elected officials.
By contrast, Police Scotland announced yesterday that its plans to roll out facial recognition technology by 2026 have been put on hold pending a wider debate about the implications of its use.
Their decision comes in the wake of a report published on Tuesday, February 11, by a Scottish government committee, which concluded that facial recognition technology is “currently not fit for use” by Police Scotland.
The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing informed Police Scotland that the force must demonstrate the legal basis for using the technology and its compliance with human rights and data protection legislation before they can start using it.
In a report that was part of the committee’s inquiry into the advancement of the technology, the committee wrote: “The use of live facial recognition technology would be a radical departure from Police Scotland’s fundamental principle of policing by consent.”
The committee warned that the facial recognition technology was “known to discriminate against females and those from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.”
Committee convener John Finnie said: “It is clear that this technology is in no fit state to be rolled out or indeed to assist the police with their work.
“Current live facial recognition technology throws up far too many ‘false positives’ and contains inherent biases that are known to be discriminatory.”
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan said it would now conduct a public consultation on the live software and keep a “watching brief on the trialling of the technology in England and Wales.”
In September 2019, Cardiff’s high court ruled that police use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds is lawful. The technology is currently being used by South Wales police.
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