It’s a blow to plans first announced last month, when the Scottish Professional Football League put forward the idea as a security measure in the wake of unruly fan behavior; the idea would be to use it to automatically flag known troublemakers as they enter stadiums. Even then, the head of the Scottish Football Supporters Association decried the idea as “a rushed move towards intrusive surveillance”; but the government’s rejection of the proposal is based mostly on economic concerns, at least ostensibly.
Speaking to STV News, Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse explained that “[i]t’s a hugely challenging time for public finances,” and that the fan behavior issue is “something Scottish football has to resolve itself”. But he added that government authorities are “willing to work with the footballing authorities and keen to do so,” suggesting that it isn’t so much the nature of the proposed security system, but the cost of it, at issue.
Still, it would be understandable for the government to feel uneasy about such a deployment of facial recognition technology in the wake of recent controversies such that surrounding police use of facial recognition at a major UK music event. In any case, it appears that if the SPFL is intent on pursuing this measure, it will have to do so on its own.
February 26, 2016 – by Alex Perala