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Civil liberties groups demand government bans facial recognition cameras

Written by on 23/08/2021

Thirty-one civil society organisations are calling on the government to ban facial recognition cameras.

The group, which includes Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International, has accused police and the Home Office of bypassing parliament over guidance allowing police, local councils and enforcement agencies to use facial recognition across England and Wales in defiance of court rulings against invasive filming.

The guidance was published last week by the College of Policing during the parliamentary recess and without any announcement, according to The Daily Telegraph.

It came despite a Court of Appeal ruling that the use of facial recognition cameras by South Wales Police as a pilot scheme ahead of a nationwide rollout breached privacy rights and broke equalities law, the group’s letter said.

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 10: A police facial recognition van seen on June 10, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Image: Police use of facial recognition was ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal

“In a democratic society, it is imperative that intrusive technologies are subject to effective scrutiny,” the letter said.

“Police and the Home Office have, so far, completely bypassed parliament on the matter of LFRT (live facial recognition technology).

“We are not aware of any intention to subject LFRT plans to parliamentary consideration, despite the intrusiveness of this technology, its highly controversial use over a number of years, and the dangers associated with its use.”

More on Amnesty International

The group said it feared LFRT “may be used in a broad range of public gatherings” such as sporting events, music concerts, and protests, threatening protected rights.

“Further, deployments of this surveillance technology could mirror and exacerbate existing disproportionate policing practices towards minority communities.”

The group said it was “calling on parliament and relevant stakeholders to halt and ban the use of live facial recognition technology by the police and private companies entirely, as it poses significant and unmitigable risks to our society”.

“We do not believe that LFRT can ever be safely deployed in public spaces and for mass surveillance purposes.”

The letter said the use of facial recognition technology “represents a huge shift in the relationship between the individual and the state”.

“The implications come not solely from privacy and data protection perspectives, but from the larger ethical question for a democratic society permitting and seemingly condoning the rollout of such intrusive technology.

“LFRT also raises significant problems for our human rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”

 Sky News

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