South Wales Police’s facial recognition use deemed lawful

The High Court in Cardiff has found that the use of facial recognition by South Wales Police (SWP) is currently lawful, in response to a claim for judicial review in May that was brought by Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident who believes his face was scanned twice by cameras that were part of SWP’s ongoing facial recognition trial project.

Liberty argued that South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology breached the right to privacy, data protection laws, and anti-discrimination laws, but the court refused the application on all grounds.

In its judgement the court stated: “We are satisfied both that the current legal regime is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use of AFR Locate [the facial recognition using being trialled by SWP], and that SWP’s use to date of AFR Locate has been consistent with the requirements of the Human Rights Act, and the data protection legislation.” Bridges will appeal the judgment. The system used by SWP was unable to unable to recognise someone unless they were already on a watchlist.

An spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest said: “We will be reviewing the judgment carefully. We welcome the court’s finding that the police use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) systems involves the processing of sensitive personal data of members of the public, requiring compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018. This new and intrusive technology has the potential, if used without the right privacy safeguards, to undermine rather than enhance confidence in the police.

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