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Police forces resist facial recognition tech

Written by Hannah McGrath

UK police forces are reportedly resisting efforts made by the Home Office to roll out trials of facial recognition technology, as controversy mounts over the privacy implications of biometric surveillance.

According to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by the Observer newspaper, Kent and West Midlands police forces are pushing back against government testing of facial recognition systems.

In addition, the FoIs suggested the forces are denying that they agreed to help the Home Office trial the technology.

The denials from the forces come after government ministers announced in June that Kent and West Midlands police forces had agreed to help trial the technology to assist in “missing and vulnerable persons” inquiries.

The apparent push back comes as data privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation last week into facial recognition technology in CCTV in the King’s Cross area of London.

Responding to the FoIs, Hannah Couchman, policy and campaigns officer at human rights group Liberty, said : “These responses demonstrate how the Home Office has botched its attempt to make dangerous facial recognition technology seem more palatable by targeting missing or vulnerable persons – a well-worn tactic to justify a controversial new tool, and one which raises serious rights concerns.”

A statement from West Midlands Police said: "West Midlands Police have been approached to contribute to the trial, however no commitment to contribute has been made to date."

It added: "For any trials of this nature to be considered, the proposal must pass through our internal governance processes which will assess the ethical, technical and operational aspects of the proposal."