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King’s Cross cancels facial recognition tech

Written by Hannah McGrath
03/09/2019

Facial recognition software will no longer in operation in the King’s Cross area, following controversy over its use in a number of CCTV systems last month.

The Information Commissioner’s Office announced it would investigate the development’s use of the technology after it admitted to using facial recognition in the 67-acre zone of central London zone around King’s Cross train station.

The revelation prompted information commissioner Elizabeth Denham to say she was “deeply concerned” about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, as well as drawing criticism from London mayor Sadiq Khan, who asked the company to clarify whether it believed its use of the software was legal.

The King’s Cross development had not commented publically on the issue since the practice was first confirmed early last month, but on Monday issued a statement saying that it was not planning to reintroduce facial recognition technology in future.

It explained that two cameras using facial recognition technology had been in operation between May 2016 and March 2018, but the system was never used marketing or other commercial purposes, and was instead used to assist the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police “prevent and detect crime in the neighbourhood and ultimately to help ensure public safety”.

A statement added: “During that time, data processed via the facial recognition technology system was regularly deleted, with the final deletion taking place in March 2018.”

The development company insisted that the King’s Cross Estate does not currently use facial recognition technology and has not done so since March 2018.

“There has been considerable media interest recently regarding the use of facial recognition technology at the King’s Cross Estate, located next to St Pancras International and King’s Cross stations,” continued the statement.

“The King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP) is continuing to co-operate with the ICO. We do not intend to comment whilst its work continues,” it added.

“We note the broad debate now underway about the use of facial recognition technology and how to balance and combine keeping people safe and protecting their privacy, and the prospect of legal and regulatory developments in this area of emerging technology. In the meantime, KCCLP has no plans to reintroduce any form of FRT at the King’s Cross Estate.”

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