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David Davis MP signs pledge calling on UK police & companies to immediately halt the use of facial recognition cameras

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As reported in The Times:

The police should stop using facial recognition technology for public surveillance immediately, a group of MPs has said.

The use of the technology is incompatible with human rights and has reached “epidemic” proportions, according to the cross-party group, which includes the Tory MP David Davis, Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, and Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader.

Their demands, set out in a statement sent to Priti Patel, the home secretary, have been backed by 25 human rights groups, including Big Brother Watch and Amnesty International.

Concerns about the use of facial recognition technology in privately owned public spaces have increased since it was introduced at busy sites such as the King’s Cross development in London and the World Museum in Liverpool.

Big Brother Watch estimates that “tens of millions” of people have been scanned and compared to “secret watch-lists” by cameras without their knowledge.

The Metropolitan Police has made use of the technology in London ten times since 2016.

An independent review into its use, commissioned by Scotland Yard, found that over the four-year trial, 81 per cent of “matches” wrongly identified innocent people as wanted suspects.

The review added that it was “highly possible” that the Met’s use of the technology would be found unlawful if challenged in court.

However, this month the High Court backed the use of the technology by the South Wales police in a challenge brought by Ed Bridges, an activist from Cardiff, who claimed that his face was scanned while he was Christmas shopping in 2017 and at a protest last year.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “No other European country has a face surveillance epidemic like the UK, aligning us with the likes of China rather than our democratic counterparts.

“The British public do not want to be walking ID cards subjected to a constant police line up. There must be an urgent stop to this privacy disaster before it’s too late.”

Mr Davis said: “Police use of facial recognition is potentially a serious invasion of individual privacy and civil liberties. We need a proper legal framework fit for these emerging technologies to balance policing effectiveness and privacy.

“There must be an immediate halt to the use of these systems to give parliament the chance to debate it properly and establish proper rules for the police to follow.”

As reported in City AM:

Privacy campaigners and MPs from several parties have called for police and private companies to “immediately stop” using live facial recognition surveillance in public spaces.

In an open letter published by campaigning group Big Brother Watch, signatories including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott cite “serious concerns” about the technology’s “incompatibility with human rights” and “lack of safeguards”.

Live facial recognition allows faces captured via CCTV surveillance to be checked against watch lists in real time, but campaigners have argued that the technology infringes on privacy rights.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, and Green MP Caroline Lucas are among the other politicians to put their names to the letter. Technology and human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the Ada Lovelace Institute also signed.

The letter says the signatories “hold differing views about live facial recognition surveillance”, but are united in their call for the technology to be abandoned.

Davis said police use of facial recognition “is potentially a serious invasion of individual privacy and civil liberties”, adding: “We need a proper legal framework fit for these emerging technologies to balance policing effectiveness and privacy.”

“There must be an immediate halt to the use of these systems to give Parliament the chance to debate it properly and establish proper rules for the police to follow,” Davis said.

The King’s Cross development defended its use of facial recognition technology last month, saying the cameras were used “in the interest of public safety”. The site then ditched plans to reintroduce the technology.

Big Brother Watch said it estimates that “tens of millions” of people have been scanned using the technology in the UK without their knowledge.