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Facial recognition technology is being deployed in London this week

Facial recognition software was trialled on Monday in central London to fight soaring crime in the capital.

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Credit: London Metropolitan Police

This is the first time such technology is utilised in London. It was deployed by the Metropolitan Police in Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, searching for suspects wanted by the force or the courts.

The Met has stated clearly that the technology will be used openly and with a clear uniformed presence. Information leaflets will be also disseminated to the public, and posters with information about the technology will also be displayed in the area.

The strategic lead for live facial technology for the MPS, Ivan Balhatchet, said that “The Met is currently developing the use of live facial recognition technology and we have committed to ten trials during the coming months. We are now coming to the end of our trials when a full evaluation will be completed.

“We continue to engage with many different stakeholders, some who actively challenge our use of this technology”, he added. “In order to show transparency and continue constructive debate, we have invited individuals and groups with varying views on our use of facial recognition technology to this deployment.”

But privacy campaigner Big Brother Watch has called the use of such technology as “authoritarian, dangerous and lawless”.

In a statement on their website, the group said that “monitoring innocent people in public is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and assembly”.

The Met has reassured all the faces on the database to be used during the deployment are of crime suspects only, and anyone who declines to be scanned during the deployment will not be viewed as suspicious by police officers.

According to The Met Police, three arrests were made on Monday during the operation with one suspect identified by the technology wanted for a violent offence.

But Big Brother Watch has warned this would not be the first time that facial recognition technology fails in the UK, causing the apprehension of innocent civilians.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said:  “As with all mass surveillance tools, it is the general public who suffer more than criminals.

“It is well overdue that police drop this dangerous and lawless technology.”

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