Scottish Parliament to examine use of facial recognition

Written by Jenni Davidson and Sam Trendall on 7 October 2019 in News
News

Holyrood committee to explore benefits of technology as well 'a number of concerns' about privacy and rights

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Members of the Scottish Parliament are looking into police use of facial recognition technology in a new inquiry launched by the Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.

Advances in technology mean that images that could be used for facial recognition can now come from body-worn cameras and mobile phones in addition to CCTV.

The technology can either be ‘live’ or ‘retrospective’ and it is thought that Police Scotland currently uses retrospective facial recognition technology from recorded CCTV, which is matched against faces in the Police National Database.

However, it is not known whether other policing organisations, such as the British Transport Police or the National Crime Agency use either form of facial recognition in Scotland.


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The committee wants to find out how police are using the technology currently, as well as what their plans are for future use, as it becomes increasingly common.

Speaking as the inquiry was launched, sub-committee convener John Finnie MSP said: “Facial recognition could be a useful tool for police in fighting crime and keeping communities safe. However, it should not be forgotten that this technology is invasive to citizens’ privacy. The human rights and legal implications of using facial recognition need to be understood."

He added: “The sub-committee wants to be reassured that police services are striking the right balance when using this technology. We have a number of concerns we look forward to exploring further in the months ahead.”

Following a legal challenge brought against South Wales Police by Cardiff man Ed Bridges – supported by human rights campaign group Liberty – High Court judges recently ruled that the use of automated facial-recognition technology is lawful. Bridges and Liberty have indicated that they will appeal the decision.

 

About the author

Jenni Davidson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @HolyroodJenni.

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