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February 12, 2020updated 16 Jun 2022 5:50am

Biometrics Commissioner to Met Police: No, I Don’t “Support” Live Facial Recognition

"In that document they claim that I ‘supported the concept of LFR’".

By CBR Staff Writer

The UK’s Biometrics Commissioner has admonished the Metropolitan Police for suggesting that he “supported the concept of LFR” (live facial recognition).

In fact, said Professor Paul Wiles – a former chief scientific advisor to the Home Office – he has explicitly said that Parliament should be deciding if it is used.

The comments come three weeks after the Met said they were deploying facial recognition across London, despite ongoing controversy around its use.

See also: Met Police Rolls Out Live Facial Recognition – Information Commissioner Gives Cautious Blessing

Wiles, an independent advisor to the British government, who leads biometrics oversight in a role created in 2012, has previously spoken out strongly against against deployment of live facial recognition without explicit legislation in place governing it.

He questioned in June [pdf] whether the “public will retain their confidence in the police use of biometrics if the important issue of proportionality has not been decided independently, by our elected representatives, rather than the police themselves.”

“In Fact…”

In short comment posted to the government’s public announcements page this week, Wiles said: “I am aware that the Metropolitan Police Service have produced an equality impact assessment in relation to their deployment of live facial recognition (LFR). In that document they claim that I ‘supported the concept of LFR’.

He added: “In fact I have continually said that we need proper governance of new biometric technologies such as LFR through legislation. In my view it is for Parliament to decide whether LFR ought to be used by the police and if so for what purposes.”

Read this: 5 Crucial Takeaways from the Biometrics Commissioner’s Report

The equality impact assessment noted by the commissioner appears to have actually been released in June of 2018. In that report is a consultation log which states that the Biometrics Commissioner “Supported the concept of LFR.”

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The Commissioner’s office confirmed to Computer Business Review that it has only just come to their attention.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Service told us that: “The The MPS welcomes the Biometric Commissioner’s interest in developing guidance to cover use of biometric systems and information. We have been keeping the Biometrics Commissioner informed about the MPS deployment of LFR and look forward to any opportunities to work with him about the use of new biometrics in law enforcement. We have updated the equality impact assessment to accurately reflect his position.”

The Met, which serves more than eight million people across 32 London boroughs, says deployment “will be intelligence-led and deployed to specific locations in London. This will help tackle serious crime, including serious violence, gun and knife crime, child sexual exploitation and help protect the vulnerable.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office said mildly last month that it had “received assurances” from the Met over the impact of the technology.

The police force will be using technology from NEC, it said.

The Japanese multinational boasts that its facial recognition technology is “installed in over 1,000 major systems in more than 70 countries and regions worldwide”

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