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Court rules police use of facial recognition is legal; survey finds majority of public want restrictions on the technology

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The high court in Cardiff has ruled that the legal regime governing South Wales Police's use of facial recognition "is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use" of the technology. The judgment comes two days after the publication of survey results showing that the majority of the British public are willing to accept facial recognition technology in certain circumstances, "but want the government to impose restrictions on its use."

Court ruling

Police use of facial recognition is legal, Cardiff high court rules (The Guardian, link)

"Police use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds is lawful, the high court in Cardiff has ruled.

Although the mass surveillance system interferes with the privacy rights of those scanned by security cameras, two judges have concluded, it is not illegal.

The legal challenge was brought by Ed Bridges, a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Cardiff, who noticed the cameras when he went out to buy a lunchtime sandwich. He was supported by the human rights organisation Liberty. He plans to appeal against the judgment."

The judgment: R -v- The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and others ([2019] EWHC 2341, pdf):

"...the Claimant’s claim for judicial review is dismissed on all grounds. We are satisfied both that the current legal regime is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use of AFR Locate, and that SWP’s use to date of AFR Locate has been consistent with the requirements of the Human Rights Act, and the data protection legislation."

And: Court's press summary (pdf)

See also: Liberty fights for facial recognition ban following court ruling (Liberty, link)

Public opinion

Beyond face value: public attitudes to facial recognition technology (Ada Lovelace Institute, link):

"The first national survey of public opinion on the use of facial recognition technology reveals the majority of people in the UK want companies, the government, and public bodies to limit use of the technology including by the police and in schools.

Published today by the Ada Lovelace Institute, the survey shows that the British public are prepared to accept use of facial recognition technology in some instances, when there is a clear public benefit and where appropriate safeguards are put in place, but they also want the government to impose restrictions on its use.

The Ada Lovelace Institute is calling for companies to temporarily stop selling and using facial recognition technology while the public is consulted on its use. It will lead public consultation by establishing the Citizens’ Biometric Council, a citizens’ assembly supported by the Information Commissioner’s Office."

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