Police scanned over 8,000 faces without consent in London

March 5, 2020

British police used live facial recognition to scan 8,600 people’s faces without consent at Oxford Circus. 

Statistics released by London’s Metropolitan Police show it deployed Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology on February 27 at Oxford Circus, an area regularly busy with shoppers and tourists. 

The technology threw up eight matches from its database of faces, seven of these were false positives, resulting in five incorrect “engagements.” 

A spokesperson for the Met told Business Insider that in the case of these five “engagements” officers spoke to the individuals flagged and ascertained that they were not individuals wanted by the police.

One of the faces flagged by the system did result in an arrest of a 35-year old woman who was later charged with three counts of assault on police.

Big Brother Watch wrote on Twitter that this meant 86% of the alerts the system threw up were false, and 71% of these misidentifications resulted in the police stopping and questioning someone.

Big Brother Watch added: “This blows apart the Met’s defence that facial recognition surveillance is in any way proportionate or that the staggering inaccuracy is mitigated by human checks.

“This is a disaster for human rights, a breach of our most basic liberties and an embarrassment for our capital city.”

The Met announced in January this year that it would start rolling out live facial recognition technology in London, and last month Commissioner Cressida Dick pushed back against criticisms by advocacy groups that the technology poses threats to privacy and civil liberties.