Facial recognition technology powered by AI may soon be part of everyday life, as Home Secretary Sajid Javid has backed plans for the police to begin trialling a new breed of camera.
The Metropolitan Police are among the police forces to have tested the equipment, drawing heavy criticism and subsequent legal challenges from civil liberties groups.
Mr Javid has insisted that the AI surveillance software, which can help identify individuals in public places, offers an important opportunity for the police to gain a cutting edge and new efficiency in their work.
The technology, which is banned in cities in the States, has thus far been tested at large-scale public events in the UK, such as carnivals, sporting fixtures in stadiums and pop concerts.
The sophisticated HD cameras can pick up faces and draw similarities between them and existing mugshots of individuals already on the police database. However, many have underlined the failure rate of facial recognition to do its job properly, especially when the target individuals are black or of an ethnic minority.
The absence of regulation governing how police implement the software or handle the data it collects has proved another serious cause for concern among civil rights activists.
In an address at the launch of new software designed to aid police to tackle child abuse online, Mr Javid underlined how it was imperative that the forces are “on top of the latest technology.”
“I back the police in looking at technology and trialling it and… different types of facial recognition technology is being trialled especially by the Met at the moment and I think it’s right they look at that,” Mr Javid said.
Alarm has also been expressed by the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding the legality of the technology, its efficacy, and how it was up to police to prove that less invasive methods had been explored.
Mr Javid also said that relying on facial recognition cameras in the longer-term would require new laws.
“If they want to take it further it’s also right that they come to government, we look at it carefully and we set out through Parliament how that can work,” he said.
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