South Wales Police given ultimatum to drop facial recognition tech

Ex-councillor Ed Bridges has given the force two weeks to drop tech that "violates privacy rights"

A former Liberal Democrat councillor from Cardiff has threatened legal action if the South Wales Police do not stop using automated recognition technology.

Ed Bridges has teamed up with human rights group Liberty and has written to Chief Constable Matt Jukes, demanding the police scrap the technology within two weeks.

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"The police are supposed to protect us, and their presence should make us feel safe, but I know first hand how intimidating their use of facial recognition technology is," Mr Bridges told WalesOnline.

"Indiscriminately scanning everyone going about their daily business makes our privacy rights meaningless. The inevitable conclusion is that people will change their behaviour or feel scared to protest to express themselves freely. In short, we'll be less free."

The South Wales Police was one of the first forces to use the software in the UK when it deployed the tech during the 2017 Champions League final in May.

However, its effectiveness has been called into question after a report from civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch claimed the system misidentified 2,400 innocent people.

The report also said that despite 2.6 million in Home Office funding, its facial recognition software stored the innocent people's biometric data without their knowledge.

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The force deployed the software at a number of events and Mr Bridges said the police had no authorisation to use the technology.

"Members of the public scanned by AFR technology have not provided their consent and are often completely unaware it is in use. It is not authorised by any law and the government has not provided any policies or guidance on it. No independent oversight body regulates its use," he said.

IT Pro approached the South Wales Police for comment and were told: "South Wales Police has received correspondence relating to the deployment of automated facial recognition technology which we will be responding to in due course."

"The force has been very cognisant of concerns surrounding privacy and are confident that our approach is lawful and proportionate."

Picture: Shutterstock

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