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Government backs police facial recognition, Orwell says “told you so”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has backed the police forces around the UK who are experimenting with automated facial recognition technology.

The former Conservative Party leadership candidate says the tech – which can be used to passively identify suspects based upon the images on record – can help police with unsolved crimes.

We’ve seen it used particularly often at football matches, to help spot known troublemakers, but also at festivals and parades. However, the use of the tech has drawn severe criticism from civil liberties campaigners who claim inaccuracies and unfair targeting of minorities. Javid, though, is on board.

He said (via BBC): “I back the police in looking at technology and trialling it and… different types of facial recognition technology is being trialled especially by the Met at the moment and I think it’s right they look at that.”

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While trials are ongoing at a number of police forces, they are not yet permitted to be used as a permanent solution. Javid says that would require new legislation to be passed.

“If they want to take it further it’s also right that they come to government, we look at it carefully and we set out through Parliament how that can work,” he added.

That’s unlikely to appease privacy advocates like Millie Graham Wood of Privacy International. She says there’s still so much we don’t know about how police are handling the images or where they’re being stored.

She said: “We don’t know where the images are going, what they’re checked against, if they’re stored, where they’re stored, the deletion practice, which [private] companies they are using, or what’s the long-term plan to roll it out?

“How many false positives are there when they run this? How good is the technology and how discriminatory is it?”

How do you feel about police use of facial recognition technology? Does it make you feel safer? Or like you’re being watched? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

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