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Home Secretary Sajid Javid supports police facial recognition trials despite human rights concerns

Home Secretary Sajid Javid supports police facial recognition trials despite human rights concerns

Civil rights groups have criticised automated facial recognition trials in the UK. (Stock photo) Home Secretary Sajid Javid has backed the use of automated facial recognition trials by police, despite concerns raised by human rights groups across the country. Javid claimed that the surveillance technology could help police to identify suspects in public places and solve crime

Home Secretary Sajid Javid supports police facial recognition trials despite human rights concerns

Civil rights groups have criticised automated facial recognition trials in the UK. (Stock photo)

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has backed the use of automated facial recognition trials by police, despite concerns raised by human rights groups across the country.

Javid claimed that the surveillance technology could help police to identify suspects in public places and solve crime more quickly.

“I back the police in looking at technology and trialling it… different types of facial recognition technology is being trialled, especially by the Met, at the moment. I think it’s right they look at it,” Javid said, according to the BBC.

The comments came at the launch of a computer technology intended to help police stop child abuse.

In the past one year, the facial recognition technology has been trialled by multiple forces in the UK, including South Wales Police and the Metropolitan Police in London. Police tested high-definition cameras at events, including parades, festivals and football matches.

These cameras are linked to computers that can, supposedly, detect faces within a crowd, and compare them with existing photographs in a police database to identify suspects.

But civil rights groups, including Liberty, are not happy with such trials. They argue that they violate privacy and the data protection rights of citizens. The campaigners also say that there are currently no rules and regulations to govern how forces will use the technology or manage the data gathered.

Liberty also says that the technology is highly inaccurate, especially in identifying people from ethnic minority groups. The group has described the facial recognition technology as intrusive and discriminatory, and will force people to change their behaviour.

In a recent study, University of Essex researchers found that the matches made by the facial recognition system were correct only in 20 per cent of the cases. The researchers concluded that the use of this technology could break human rights laws.

Last month, UK’s Biometrics Commissioner criticised police’s ‘chaotic’ use of facial recognition and called for a clear legal framework for the use of such technology.

And two days back, the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham issued a warning to police forces, reminding them that live facial recognition technology is subject to GDPR.

The South Wales Police and the Met are currently using the Neoface system, developed by Japanese electronics giant NEC. The company has also provided this system to casinos to identify their regular customers – as well as, presumably, people who are banned for various reasons. 

Many concert operators and stadiums are also using the technology to identify “potential troublemakers” within crowds.

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