Critics have bashed the police plan to use facial recognition on coronation crowds

Human rights activists have heavily criticized the police’s potential use of facial recognition on crowds at the coronation.

The Metropolitan Police are considering using the technology over the weekend, with a list of people officers believe pose a risk to public safety.

This could include wanted criminals or offenders subject to strict licensing conditions, the force said.

The rear of a uniformed officer, looking at a facial recognition camera mounted on the roof of a green van.

Facial recognition technology in use during a previous rollout in Leicester Square, London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But human rights activists have run afoul of the use of the technology.

Emmanuelle Andrews, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said: “Facial recognition is a dystopian tool that violates our rights and threatens our freedom.

“We all have the right to go about our lives without being surveilled and monitored, but this weekend anyone in the vicinity of the king’s coronation is at risk of having their faces scanned by this oppressive technology.

“In 2020, we won a groundbreaking case against facial recognition, with a judge ruling that this tool violates our privacy rights, data protection laws and equality laws.

“This use of facial recognition will have a huge impact on our entire right to protest.

“We have already seen a huge crackdown on protests ahead of the coronation, with new measures introduced this week to further limit the ways people can make their voices heard.

“Facial recognition is now likely to be used to monitor anyone who wants to exercise their right to protest, an extremely worrying development. Facial recognition is a threat to our freedom: it must be banned.”

Last month, research showed there were minimal discrepancies by race and gender when the technology was used in certain settings. It has even been found to correctly identify between identical twins.

But it was less accurate in other settings for blacks and those younger than 20 as well.

Previous false positive identifications when the Met rolled out the technology have included a 14-year-old black schoolboy in uniform and a French exchange student who had only been in the country for a few days.

Big Brother Watch legal and political officer Madeleine Stone said: “This Orwellian technology may be used in China and Russia, but it has no place on the streets of Britain – at least not during the coronation.

“The hundreds of thousands of innocent people attending this historic event must not be treated as suspects lined up and subjected to biometric police identity checks.

“The use of live facial recognition would have a serious deterrent effect on the right to free speech on a day when thousands will consider celebrating or protesting.”

There is a dispute between police and activists over how many people are being misidentified using the technology.

Stone added: “If this dangerously inaccurate technology is employed during the coronation, it is unlikely to have any benefit to police, but it would come at a serious cost to police resources and the public’s privacy rights, meaning that many people will be wrongly marked as criminals and forced to prove their innocence.

“Real-time facial recognition is not mentioned in a single UK law, has never been debated in Parliament and is one of the most privacy-intrusive technologies ever used in UK policing.

“This dystopian technology shouldn’t be anywhere near coronation. The Home Secretary should urgently ban the use of real-time facial recognition by the police.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan told reporters on Wednesday that the Metropolitan Police were considering using facial recognition during the coronation.

In a further statement, the force said: “We intend to use facial recognition technology in central London.

“The watchlist will focus on those whose presence on Coronation Day would raise public safety concerns, including those wanted for felonies or with an outstanding court-issued arrest warrant, or those subject to relevant offense in order to keep the public safe.”

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