UK police to start live facial scanning trials amid public outrage
The British police are starting a live trial for facial recognition practice in public places despite widespread criticism that the controversial technology could be a serious breach of privacy of the citizens.
The Metropolitan Police, or the Met, which is responsible for law enforcement in London, said on Saturday that testing the facial recognition technology will be carried out in areas around Westminster, a central neighborhood of the capital, on December 17-18.
The Met said the trial will be carried out in an “overt” manner with officers wearing uniforms and handing the public a series of information leaflets.
They said the faces used in the live testing process will be of those wanted by the police or the courts and members of the public could refuse to cooperate.
The announcement is expected to face huge public outcry especially from campaigners of privacy and personal freedom.
Director of Big Brother Watch group said the use of facial recognition by the police would be a blatant violation of the laws governing privacy of citizens.
“The police’s use of this authoritarian surveillance tool in total absence of a legal or democratic basis is alarming,” said Silkie Carlo, adding “Live facial recognition is a form of mass surveillance that, if allowed to continue, will turn members of the public into walking ID cards.”
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The Big Brother Watch has already obtained information showing that 98% of “matches” found by the facial recognition during earlier Met Police tests were wrong. The group believed the technology has even proved more useless as inaccuracies are rising to 100 percent.
“As with all mass surveillance tools, it is the general public who suffer more than criminals. The fact that it has been utterly useless so far shows what a terrible waste of police time and public money it is,” said Carlo.
Officials in the Met said the trial in Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square will be one among some 10 rounds of testing that are planned to take place in the upcoming months.
Britain’s use of new surveillance software comes amid an increasing rate of crimes in the country. London and several other large cities are already struggling with rampant knife crime attacks. Reports earlier in the week showed that the number of homicides recorded in the capital this year had exceeded a 10-year high of 130, with many killed in stabbing attacks in south and southeast of the capital.