Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Police Facial Recognition Is An Authoritarian And Oppressive Surveillance Tool

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says facial recognition has proved inaccurate overseas and its use by companies here could The Information Commissioner is threatening to take legal action over the police's use of facial recognition technology
Patty Aguilar | 16 May, 2018, 08:46

The Met uses the technology to match people's faces against computer databases of criminals via CCTV and other cameras and they have deployed at numerous events, with very little success, according to the report, titled "Face Off: The lawless growth of facial recognition in United Kingdom policing".

The UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said that police need to demonstrate the efficacy of facial recognition technology when less intrusive methods are not available: "Should my concerns not be addressed I will consider what legal action is needed to ensure the right protections are in place for the public".

And, despite cops' insistence that it works, the report showed an average false positive rate - where the system "identifies" someone not on the list - of 91 per cent across the country.

"Firstly, the operator in the van is able to see that the person identified in the picture is clearly not the same person, and it's literally disregarded at that point", said Mr Lewis. A Met police spokesperson said that all alerts on its watch list were deleted after 30 days and faces that do not generate an alert are immediately deleted.

Technological advances in the last 20 years have rapidly increased the ability of online systems to identify individuals.

The group described this as a "chilling example of function creep" and an example of the risky effect it could have on the rights of marginalised people.

This is compounded by the fact that the commercial software used by the Met - and also South Wales Police (SWP) - has yet to be tested for demographic accuracy biases.

Both the South Wales and Met Police forces have defended the use of the technology.

The privacy group also said that: "automated facial recognition technology is now used by United Kingdom police forces without a clear legal basis, oversight or governmental strategy".

Denham says she will also consider recent reports by Civil Society, Big Brother Watch, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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SWP - which has used AFR at 18 public places since it was first introduced in May 2017 - has fared only slightly better.

Two forces admitted to using the software, including the Metropolitan Police Force. The system led to 15 arrests or 0.005% of the total matches.

The SWP said that false positives were to be expected while the technology develops, but that the accuracy was improving, and added that no one had been arrested after a false match - again because of human intervention. What protections are there for people that are of no interest to the police?

The UK's independent biometrics commissioner, Paul Wiles, told The Independent that the technology is "not yet fit for use" judging by the figures outlined in the report.

Further details are expected in the long-awaited biometrics strategy, which is slated to appear in June.

National police databases are brimming full of people's images - 19million at the last count - hundreds of thousands of which are of innocent people.

"If we move forward on this path, these systems will mistakenly identify innocent people as criminals or terrorists and will be used by unscrupulous governments to silence unwelcome voices". This means that they remain on the system unless a person asks for them to be removed.

Police records suggest the technology is grossly unreliable, however, and authorities who continue using AFR risk potentially violating British privacy laws, according to Big Brother Watch, a nonprofit civil liberties group that released the report.

In its report, Big Brother Watch said: "Automated facial recognition cameras are biometric identification checkpoints that risk making members of the public walking ID cards".

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