UK Commissioner Investigates Use of Biometric Surveillance in London

Biometrics News - UK Commissioner Investigates Use of Public Surveillance in London

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched an investigation into the use of facial recognition surveillance technology in the Granary Square development. Located near King’s Cross station in central London, the development consists of 50 separate buildings spread across 67 acres of land in the middle of the city.

The British privacy watchdog opened its investigation only days after London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote a letter inquiring about the legality of Granary Square’s use of CCTV surveillance. The owners of the Granary Square development acknowledged that they have been using surveillance tech, but argued that it is necessary to ensure safety and to optimize the experience of its visitors. 

Needless to say, the ICO is yet to be persuaded by that assessment, citing the public and high-traffic nature of the development as cause for concern.

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. “That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding.”

The ICO has requested information on the Granary Square system and its application in an effort to determine if it complies with the latest data protection laws.

The investigation is unlikely to quell the debate around the use of facial recognition in the city. The London police have pushed for the deregulation of surveillance tech, and have even received the support of the The British Home Secretary. However, the police system is currently facing a legal challenge, and could soon be subject to more restrictions following a challenge from the House of Commons science and technology committee.  

Source: The Guardian

August 16, 2019 – by Eric Weiss