New statuary code demanded over “invasive” police tech 

Following the controversy over the use of “invasive” facial recognition technology earlier this year, the Information Commissioner Office (ICO) has demanded a new statuary code to govern the police’s use of this new tech.

A report from the ICO explains that Live facial recognition (LFR) technology uses “the real time automated processing of digital images containing the faces of individuals, for the purposes of identification, authentication or verification, or categorisation of those individuals. LFR is an example of a technology which processes biometric data”

Invasion of privacy

Many complaints were made over the use of LFR when it was applied in London’s King’s Cross earlier this year. It was deemed that the machinery was intrusive and a threat to the public’s privacy. A court case was also taken out against authorities in South Wales to oppose the use of facial recognition tech.

The report further explains that this type of data needs GDPR rules to protect individual’s privacy and even points out that those using the data need to be wary of certain aspects of LFR.

One reason, the report states, being that “technological bias or inaccurate data that could lead to detriment, eg an individual being misidentified and potentially apprehended, thus undermining the integrity and legitimacy of the use of the technology”

Both the report and the complaints have highlighted that public acceptance of this tech is just as important as the development of the equipment itself. Jason Tooley, Chief Revenue Officer at biometrics firm Veridium comments, “Police forces across the country halting facial recognition trials due to public backlash is a huge step backwards and puts innovation at risk,”

Positives of LFR

The report does also recognise that LFR can also have positive aspects too when used correctly, however.

Tooley also comments: “There is increasing concern in the community that regulators such as the ICO will take too much of a heavy-handed approach to regulating the technology, and we must absolutely ensure innovation is not being stifled or stopped. It’s in the public interest for police forces to have access to innovative technology such as biometrics in order to deliver better services and safeguard our streets.”

“Police forces are under increasing cost pressures, with direct government funding falling 30% in the last 8 years, and as a result biometrics are making their way into government policy to improve the quality and efficiency of policing whilst reducing costs. The use of biometrics can support identity verification on-demand and at scale, which has been seen abroad where officers currently leverage widely adopted consumer technology.”

Using biometrics to gain trust

The Chief revenue officer also suggests that police need to take a thought out approach when using biometrics to gains the public’s trust. He says: “However, it is imperative police forces take a strategic approach as they trial biometric technologies, without giving precedence to a single biometric approach. A strategic approach, using other biometric techniques that have greater levels of acceptance such as digital fingerprinting, will ensure a higher level of public consent due to its maturity as an identity verification technique.

“If the police adopt a transparent policy on how biometric data is interpreted, stored and used, the public’s data privacy concerns can be greatly alleviated, which will in turn trigger consent and wider acceptance,” Tooley adds.


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