"Tackling crime must not come at the expense of rushed and ill-thought out invasions of people’s personal privacy."
Hitting out at a planned widespread use of live facial recognition cameras by London police, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner urged the Government to ‘push the pause button on this now’ following concerns over a lack of adequate legal regulation and transparency.
Pressing the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, Kit Malthouse, in Parliament yesterday, the Cambridge MP said: “The approach of trying it out and seeing how it goes is exactly the wrong way to maintain public trust. Many of my constituents use King’s Cross railway station, and last year they discovered that they were, in effect, being spied on. The legal framework is not in place. When even the head of Google is saying we should move more slowly, because we need to keep the public with us, is it not right that we follow the example of the European Union and put it on pause while we work out the right way to proceed?”
His intervention came as the Met announced its intention this week to start using live facial recognition cameras on London’s streets linked to a database of suspects, despite widespread concerns over the threat it poses to individual privacy and lack of adequate legal frameworks for the technology’s use.
The concerns follow recent warnings from the surveillance camera commissioner that there is insufficient guidance for public bodies to know what is and isn’t appropriate when using the software, and no real transparency for the public on when it is being used. In September, commuters using King’s Cross Station were shocked to find they were being monitored using the live facial recognition software without their knowledge.
Given the concerns, the EU are considering a temporary five-year ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces to give Governments and regulators time to assess the dangers of the technology. Google CEO Sundar Pichai is also in support of a temporary ban.
Mr Zeichner said: “For the police to start using live facial recognition cameras before the full implications of this technology are clear and a proper and robust legal framework is in place is premature and dangerous. The Government should push the pause button on this now, and consult properly on the safeguards we would absolutely need. Tackling crime must not come at the expense of rushed and ill-thought out invasions of people’s personal privacy.’