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Facial Recognition Now Available - But Trouble Brewing Ahead

With thanks to the ICO: Facial recognition systems are in the news again.
15 August 2019

A commercially available facial recognition system has just been launched. Meanwhile, developer Argent could be in hot water for using LFR and both the ICO and a Parliamentary Committee have questioned the technology.

ID Match scans visitors’ faces against the photos on their government issued IDs (e.g. passport or driving licence). The software identifies the accuracy of the match, reporting results to front desk and security personnel. Geoffroy De Cooman, MD of the developing company, Proxyclick, said: “Digitising the process of ID verification not only speeds up the check-in process and alleviates overloaded reception staff but also removes potential ‘human error’ from the equation. Automating the process also frees up security personnel to focus solely on the ‘bad guys’, providing the 99 per cent of ‘welcome’ visitors with a hassle-free check-in.”



Meanwhile, developers Argent may find themselves in hot water for deploying facial recognition technology across a vast area - the Kings Cross campus in London, home to the Google building along with 49 other commercial buildings, just under 2,000 homes, 10 public parks and up to 20 streets. Argent did not inform those using the space, nor the local council (Islington) and thus far has not been able to provide any legitimate grounds for the technology's use.

The Information Commissioner's Office has confirmed that any company wanting to use facial recognition systems must provide conclusive evidence to justify its use. Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner herself, recently wrote that Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology that can recognise a face amongst a crowd and then scan a databases to check for a match, sits in the province of processing personal data - and thus under the auspices of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).


£99 million

Non-compliance with GDPR in July alone saw an estate agent fined £80,00 for failing to keep tenants' data safe; a domestic boiler replacement company fined £160,000 for making calls to those on the TPS subscriber list; and Marriott International fined £99 million for a well-publicised data breach.

It is clear that the ICO is sticking with a policy of ensuring fines reflect the size of the companies and their turnovers.


Financial Times

The Financial Times reported that an Argent spokesperson said: “The (CCTV) cameras deployed around Kings Cross use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public.” The person did not confirm how many cameras were in use or how long facial recognition had been active in the area.

The FT also states that Canary Wharf Estates is planning to deploy LFR across their 97-acres of London which 140,000 people visit daily.


 Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee

The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has produced a report that highlights growing evidence from respected, independent bodies that the lack of legislation surrounding the use of automatic facial recognition has called the legal basis of police trials into question.

The Committee has called on the Government to issue a moratorium on the current use of facial recognition technology, saying no further trials should take place until a legislative framework has been introduced.



Elizabeth Denham has also said in relation to police trials of facial recognition: "I understand the purpose [of LFR] is to catch criminals. But these trials also represent the widespread processing of biometric data of thousands of people as they go about their daily lives. And that is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all.

"LFR is a high priority area for the ICO. There remain significant privacy and data protection issues that must be addressed and I remain deeply concerned about the rollout of this technology. I believe that there needs to be demonstrable evidence that the technology is necessary, proportionate and effective considering the invasiveness of LFR."


South Wales Police

The South Wales Police force is one of those that was trialling LFR. A member of the public, supported by civil rights group Liberty, has challenged the lawfulness of its use through the courts. The ICO is awaiting the resulting judgment and will then publish further findings on the topic.

Until then, the ICO's stance is that 'organisations wishing to automatically capture and use images of individuals going about their business in public spaces need to provide clear evidence to demonstrate it is strictly necessary and proportionate for the circumstances - and that there is a legal basis for that use'.

"We will consider taking action where we find non-compliance with the law," said Elizabeth Denham.

Picture - With thanks to the ICO: Facial recognition systems are in the news again.





Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 15 August 2019


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