The Metropolitan Police have started using CCTV facial recognition cameras to monitor pedestrians in London, following through on plans that were announced at the end of January. The first batch of cameras was installed atop a police van that was parked outside the doors of the Stratford Centre shopping area on Tuesday.
The people who entered the cameras’ field of vision had their faces scanned and compared to biometric profiles in a database with approximately 5,000 people who are wanted for various violent offenses, or in connection to an ongoing investigation. The police indicated that they were trying to crack down on public violence in the Stratford Centre, though no one was stopped while the van was deployed.
The new cameras were rolled out (literally) despite an independent review that found that the program was accurate only 19 percent of the time. The police also faced considerable opposition from British watchdog groups, who were critical of the Met’s seemingly disingenuous efforts to inform the public about their operation.
To that end, the police posted signs to let the public know that they did not have to pass through the facial recognition system, but the signs were not visible until people were already inside the cameras’ field of vision. There were roughly two dozen officers around the van.
“The police have gone ahead and used [facial recognition] in defiance of some serious warnings that have been issued by people like the information commissioner, the surveillance camera commissioner and the biometric commissioner,” said Green Party Co-leader Siân Berry.
With that in mind, the deployment is unlikely to settle the debate around biometric surveillance. The Information Commissioner’s Office is currently investigating the use of facial recognition at a development in central London. Soccer fans have also protested the use of facial recognition during a soccer match in Cardiff City.
Source: The Guardian
February 12, 2020 – by Eric Weiss