Rolling out live facial recognition is hasty and totally inappropriate

Caroline Pidgeon is urging the Metropolitan Police Service to drop its controversial use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology, until a whole range of serious concerns about its use are fully addressed.

The call to end the use of the technology is being made by Caroline, along with Green Party Assembly Member Sian Berry. Both Caroline and Sian are long-standing members of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee and have taken an active interest in the use of technology, including extensive questioning of the Mayor of London over many months.

The Assembly Members have written to Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, setting out their detailed concerns and pressing for answers to a number of outstanding issues.

The questions being asked by the London Assembly Members in their letter to the MPS Commissioner include:

  • An explanation as to why the MPS are ignoring the recommendation of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, that called for a halt to the police’s use of the technology until relevant regulations are in place.
  • A commitment that LFR will not be used operationally at protests, demonstrations or public events.
  • Clarification over the potential groups of people who could be included on watch lists, in addition to those wanted for serious crimes, terrorism offences and high-risk missing people.
  • Clarification as to whether the Office of the Biometrics Commissioner, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and the Information Commissioner’s Office have each given the MPS their support for the roll-out of the technology.
  • Whether the technology will reverse the significant fall in public confidence in the MPS and if so, why the MPS Commissioner believes this to be the case.

Commenting on why it is so important to halt the use of the technology until such fundamental issues are fully clarified, Caroline Pidgeon said:

"The way that this technology is being rolled out as an operational tool is hasty, ill-advised and totally inappropriate. It will have a chilling effect on civil liberties if it is not used with clarity, accountability and with full democratic consent."

As well as these long-standing legal and ethical issues, Caroline Pidgeon also drew attention to the recent increase in masks now being worn in public due to Covid-19:

"Even before the pandemic the proponents of live facial recognition technology were clutching at straws in their attempt to rush forward the technology without adequate safeguards being first put in place.

“We now face the situation that for many months ahead the wearing of masks, scarves and face coverings will be common place in public places in London. Even the staunchest advocates of facial recognition technology must surely accept that this is not the right time to be rolling out the use of this technology.”

You can read Caroline and Sian's full letter here.

And read more in the Evening Standard.