No changes needed to legal framework for facial recognition, minister claims

Written by Sam Trendall on 3 February 2020 in News
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Policing minister Malthouse says Brexit will not change legal standing

Credit: Teguhjati Pras from Pixabay

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has indicated that he sees no imminent changes needed to the legal framework for the police’s use of facial-recognition technology.

After a number of controversial trials, London’s Metropolitan Police Service announced recently that it would be putting the live facial recognition kit into operational use at various locations across the city.

The decision to do so comes following a High Court ruling in September that found that the use of LFR by South Wales Police was lawful.

In answer to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Kevan Jones – who enquired about whether new laws would be needed after the UK leaves the European Union – Malthouse said that he believed the judges had “found that there is a clear and sufficient legal framework for police use of LFR in England and Wales”.


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“This framework, which includes the common law powers available to a constable for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, Part 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018, the Human Rights Act and the Surveillance Camera Code, will not change as a result of the UK leaving the EU,” he added.

Malthouse’s comments appear somewhat contradictory to those made by the UK biometrics commissioner, Paul Wiles, who warned the Met that the High Court ruling had applied specifically to the circumstances in which South Wales Police had used the surveillance kit.

“The Metropolitan Police will need to pay attention to those circumstances to which the court drew attention,” he said. “It should also be noted that the South Wales decision is now being appealed and that the new government gave a manifesto commitment to provide a strict legal framework to govern the future police use of biometrics and artificial intelligence.”

Elsewhere in his answer, Malthouse sought to clarify the legal framework governing the use of facial-recognition kit by private sector entities.

“Private sector use of LFR is governed by the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation,” he said. “These laws impose strict obligations on both controllers and processors who handle the images obtained via the use of live facial recognition technology.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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