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Police open minded on using facial recognition technology in future

Suffolk Constabulary said it had not been approached to implement the technology  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Suffolk Constabulary said it had not been approached to implement the technology Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

(C) Daniel Fung ((C) Daniel Fung (Photographer) - [None]

Police have no immediate plans to use controversial facial recognition technology in Suffolk following a landmark ruling over its use by another force.

High Court judges recently ruled against a Cardiff shopper's legal challenge against use of automated facial recognition technology by South Wales Police.

Ed Bridges claimed his human rights were breached when photographed while Christmas shopping - but the court found police had used the tool lawfully.

It led the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to urge caution by police in regarding the judgment as a green light for the generic deployment of "an intrusive tool with human rights and public confidence implications".

Suffolk Constabulary said it had not been approached to implement the technology but remained open minded about its use.

Both South Wales Police and the Met have trialled the technology, which takes a reading of people passing a camera and compares their image to a list of suspects.

Proponents say the 50 arrests or disposals resulting from trials in South Wales demonstrate the ability to tackle crime and identify criminals in a way that would otherwise not be possible.

The Home Office said the recent judgment confirmed a clear legal framework for use of facial recognition, but that it would continue working with police to maintain trust and confidence.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: "The constabulary was not approached and it has no imminent plans to implement such technology.

"However, we remain open-minded to the use of technology to support policing activities and will review the outcomes of any trials conducted before making a final decision on viability."

In February, a Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group commissioned report raised questions about the technology's accuracy, its potential for biased outputs and decision-making on the part of system operators, and an ambiguity about the nature of current deployments.

In response to the High Court judgment, the Biometrics Commissioner said the bigger question going forward was whether there should be a specific legal framework for routinely deploying new biometrics.

This week, human rights groups and a number of MPs urged police and private companies to stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance.

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