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Growing backlash against facial recognition technology

With a the director of the campaign group Liberty calling for the use of automated facial recognition to be banned on UK streets; an announcement that San Francisco is to ban police and other agencies from using automated facial recognition; and the news that China is using the technology to impose control over its Muslim population, questions are being asked about this technology and its use.

Does the technology pose, as Martha Spurrier, a human rights lawyer argues, one of the greatest threats to individual freedom or, is it a vital tool for the police in identifying criminals?

Automated facial recognition units record faces in a crowd and the images are then processed to create a biometric map of each person’s face. It’s then checked against a “watchlist” containing the facial maps of suspected criminals.

It goes way beyond CCTV and traditional police methods and it is just a short step away from ‘mass surveillance’. So, perhaps it is a step too far, especially as the technology has struggled with large crowds, tended to freeze and only accurately identifies people in just 26 percent of cases.

This technology is certainly developing quickly, but before it is rolled out shouldn’t there by much greater oversight and governance of something that could intrude on all our lives impacting both the guilty, but more importantly, the innocent?

Neil Tyler

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