MPs join campaign group’s call for facial recognition ban

Statement calling for ‘immediate stop’ to surveillance backed by politicians from both houses.

Rob Freeman
Friday 06 October 2023 06:38 BST
A camera during trials at Scotland Yard for a facial recognition system (PA)
A camera during trials at Scotland Yard for a facial recognition system (PA)

MPs and peers from all sides have called for an “immediate stop” to the use of live facial recognition surveillance by police and private companies.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis MP, Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey, Green MP Caroline Lucas and former shadow Attorney General Baroness Shami Chakrabarti are among the 65 members of the House of Commons and House of Lords who campaign Big Brother Watch say have backed their call for a halt to the technology’s use.

The joint statement is also backed by 31 groups including Liberty, Amnesty International and the Race Equality Foundation.

Police have deployed live facial recognition at large-scale public events, including King Charles’s coronation.

The UK should show leadership in adopting new technologies in a rights-respecting way

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch

The statement said: “We hold differing views about live facial recognition surveillance, ranging from serious concerns about its incompatibility with human rights, to the potential for discriminatory impact, the lack of safeguards, the lack of an evidence base, an unproven case of necessity or proportionality, the lack of a sufficient legal basis, the lack of parliamentary consideration, and the lack of a democratic mandate.

“We call on UK police and private companies to immediately stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance.”

The statement comes after Policing Minister Chris Philp announced government plans to make UK passport photos searchable by police with facial recognition technology.

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: “The UK’s reckless approach to face surveillance makes us a total outlier in the democratic world, especially against the backdrop of the EU’s proposed ban.

“As hosts of the AI summit in autumn, the UK should show leadership in adopting new technologies in a rights-respecting way.

“There must be an urgent stop to live facial recognition, parliamentary scrutiny and a much wider democratic debate before we introduce such a privacy-altering technology to British life.”

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC use of the technology has a “robust legal framework” and said: “Facial recognition, including live facial recognition, has a sound legal basis that has been confirmed by the courts and has already enabled a large number of serious criminals to be caught.”

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