UK: Police use of facial recognition technology unlawful, says Court of Appeal


The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that South Wales Police's "use of Live Automated Facial Recognition technology on 21 December 2017 and 27 March 2018 and on an ongoing basis, which engaged Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights [the right to a private and family life], was not in accordance with the law".

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The case was brought by Liberty on behalf of Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident who was twice scanned by live automated facial recognition technology being used by South Wales Police.

See: Liberty wins ground-breaking victory against facial recognition tech (link):

"Liberty has won a ground-breaking legal challenge against police use of oppressive facial recognition technology.

In a judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeal agreed with Liberty’s submissions, on behalf of Cardiff resident Ed Bridges, 37, and found South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology breaches privacy rights, data protection laws and equality laws.

The judgment means the police force leading the use of facial recognition on UK streets must halt its long-running trial.

The Court held that there were “fundamental deficiencies” in the legal framework and that Ed Bridges’ rights were breached as a result."

As Liberty also highlight, the judgment finds that:

"SWP [South Wales Police] have never sought to satisfy themselves, either directly or by way of independent verification, that the software program in this case does not have an unacceptable bias on grounds of race or sex."

The ruling goes on to underline that in this particular case an expert witness heard by the court, Dr Anil Jain, could not comment on whether the software used by South Wales Police was subject to any such bias.

This was because "for reasons of commercial confidentiality, the manufacturer is not prepared to divulge the details so that it could be tested" - a position described in the judgment as "understandable", but which meant that SWP could not comply with their legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that the technology was not discriminatory.

Liberty are continuing to call for the government to ban the use of facial recognition technology, with a petition that has now received almost 50,000 signatures.

See: Judgment (pdf) and: Press summary (pdf)

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