Po­lice ‘ham­strung’ over fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech: Met chief

Gulf Times - - BRITAIN - By Damien Gayle

Po­lice at­tempts to ex­ploit con­tro­ver­sial sur­veil­lance mea­sures in­clud­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion CCTV are be­ing “ham­strung” by a com­plex reg­u­la­tory sys­tem and le­gal frame­work, the Metropoli­tan po­lice com­mis­sioner has said.

Thanks to the wealth of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, bio­met­rics and other elec­tronic data now avail­able, Cres­sida Dick said in­ves­ti­ga­tions now “hardly rely at all” on wit­nesses and con­fes­sions.

How­ever, she said she felt of­fi­cers were not “work­ing in a tremen­dously en­abling en­vi­ron­ment” when it came to their use.

Speak­ing in a week of five mur­ders in six days on the streets of Lon­don, Dick said that her force had en­dured “the most ter­ri­ble week”.

But she added that the Met had been “hung out to dry” by Theresa May, who when home sec­re­tary, made life “quite dif­fi­cult” for the force as it has re­fo­cused its work into high-tech dig­i­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“We are find­ing our­selves quite ham­strung by a quite com­plex reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, a quite com­plex le­gal frame­work” while “bad guys” are “fill­ing their boots” with tech­nol­ogy, Dick told the Tele­graph.

She was re­ported as say­ing that she is keen to press ahead with greater use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion.

“I am very keen that the law keeps up with the tech­nol­ogy and I don’t feel that we are work­ing in a tremen­dously en­abling en­vi­ron­ment at the mo­ment,” Dick said.

The use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion CCTV has drawn sharp crit­i­cism from civil rights groups.

Big Brother Watch pub­lished a re­port ear­lier this year claim­ing that it had picked the wrong per­son nine times out of 10, but warned that if per­fected the tech­nol­ogy had the po­ten­tial to turn in­no­cent Bri­tish cit­i­zens into “walk­ing ID cards”.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is now tak­ing the Metropoli­tan po­lice to court over its use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion CCTV.

Its di­rec­tor, Silkie Carlo, said that, con­trary to Dick’s com­ments, the Home Of­fice has in fact in­vested mil­lions in po­lice use of fa­cial tech­nol­ogy.

Carlo said: “I to­tally agree that the Home Of­fice has failed to pro­vide lead­er­ship on tech­nolo­gies and polic­ing.

“But in re­al­ity, the po­lit­i­cal aban­don­ment has left po­lice dan­ger­ously un­leashed rather than ham­strung.

“The Met has charged ahead us­ing live fa­cial recog­ni­tion sur­veil­lance with­out a le­gal ba­sis, in­tro­duc­ing ever more au­thor­i­tar­ian sur­veil­lance with no po­lit­i­cal su­per­vi­sion.”

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