Data Driven Futures

ICO to investigate King’s Cross facial recognition tech

Written by Hannah McGrath

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched an investigation into the use of live facial recognition technology in the King’s Cross area.

News of the probe comes after it was revealed this week that CCTV cameras in the 67-acre area around London's King’s Cross - traversed by thousands of visitors every day - were using facial recognition features.

In a statement Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said she was “deeply concerned” about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, by both law enforcement agencies and also increasingly by the private sector.

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all – that is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding,” she said.

“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King's Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day.”

The investigation will require detailed information from organisations that develop and manage the King’s Cross area about how the technology is used. The ICO will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.

Denham said: “Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law, and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way. They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.

“We support keeping people safe but new technologies and new uses of sensitive personal data must always be balanced against people’s legal rights,” she added.

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