Opinion: Face Recognition Cameras at Cardiff Beyoncé Concert – A Necessary Precaution or an Invasion of Privacy?
South Wales Police has confirmed plans to use live face recognition cameras in the vicinity of the Beyoncé concert in Cardiff, with the technology helping to identify people wanted for “priority offences”. This comes in light of the successful use of the cameras at the Coronation, but the technology continues to be criticised by human rights campaigners for potential bias and infringement on civil liberties.
The use of live facial recognition cameras works by comparing faces with a “watch list” using Artificial Intelligence and can be made up of people who are wanted for crimes, for example. The police have stated that if an individual is not on a watch list, the biometric data won’t be stored – and immediately deleted- with the CCTV footage being recorded and kept for up to 31 days.
The police force argues that the technology doesn’t make decisions; it is done by the officers checking if the alert from the cameras from the live footage of the street matches the wanted person. In this way, the facial recognition technology aims to support “law enforcement” and “safeguard children and vulnerable persons.” However, some critics argue that the deployment of the technology only makes potentially minor arrests while infringing on the privacy of thousands of individuals.
The rules governing face recognition technology could be weakened by a planned new law, which has led to calls for the UK to ban the technology altogether, as we risk becoming like China with its widespread surveillance. In contrast, European lawmakers recently backed an effective ban on live face recognition cameras in public spaces.
The deployment of the technology raises the larger question of whether the use of the cameras is a necessary precaution or an invasion of privacy, particularly since it may be used to target people based on their appearance rather than any proven criminality.
– In 2020, the use of face recognition cameras by South Wales Police was ruled unlawful by the Appeal Court after Cardiff resident Ed Bridges challenged it.
– Policing Minister Chris Philp has expressed his desire to embed facial recognition technology in policing and is considering what more the government can do to support the police on this.
– The Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson argued that work needs to be done to check for bias in the use of the technology, and that rules governing the technology could be weakened by a planned new law.
The use of live facial recognition cameras raises valid concerns about privacy infringement and biased policing. While the technology may be useful in catching criminals, its application must be carefully monitored to avoid misuse.
The deployment of facial recognition technology involves a balancing act between potential gains in public safety and potential encroachment on civil liberties. At present, the use of the technology in the UK remains limited, but as authorities continue to explore new technologies for maintaining public safety, it is important to consider the ethical and legal implications of such tools. In such cases, transparency, accountability, and oversight are crucial to ensuring the responsible use of these technologies.