A former barrister is calling for a temporary moratorium on the use of large-scale facial recognition technology in the UK. Matthew Ryder made the recommendation after completing a two-year legal review of the country’s data protection laws, and finding that the UK’s regulatory framework has not kept pace with the rate of technological innovation.
With that in mind, Ryder is recommending a ban on mass surveillance systems, at least until the country enacts data protection laws that adequately address newer biometric technologies. He specifically wants organizations like the police to stop using live facial recognition in public spaces, and is calling for similar restrictions in the private sector. For example, the Co-op grocery chain has been using facial recognition to monitor its stores, while a 67-acre private development in King’s Cross came under fire for its own CCTV setup.
“The current legal regime is fragmented, confused and failing to keep pace with technological advances,” said Ryder. “We urgently need an ambitious new legislative framework specific to biometrics. We must not allow the use of biometric data to proliferate under inadequate laws and insufficient regulation.”
While facial recognition has drawn the most headlines, Ryder’s report is ultimately concerned with all forms of biometric data collection, including health and behavioral records. He noted that behavioral analysis is already being used to automate some decisions in the workplace, which can create a risk of bias depending on how that technology is deployed. For instance, some offices are using AI to grade job interviews based on factors like “enthusiasm,” even though facial expressions may not correlate with an actual emotion.
Ryder is urging lawmakers to create more comprehensive biometric data protection laws that detail exactly what is and is not allowed when using biometric tech. He also argues that any systems that do get deployed under that framework need to achieve certain performance benchmarks for accuracy and reliability. Oversight and enforcement responsibilities would be handed over to an independent (and well-funded) national regulatory body.
As it stands, Ryder believes that regulators are struggling to deal with infractions after they have occurred, rather than taking a more proactive approach. The temporary ban on mass identification systems would give the government more time to catch up with the tech.
Ryder’s independent review was commissioned by the Ada Lovelace Institute. Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson has seconded Ryder’s call for better regulatory guidelines in the biometrics space.
June 30, 2022 – by Eric Weiss