London‘s Metropolitan Police force has started operational use of ‘Live Facial Recognition’ technology, but insists it will only be used in intelligence-led operations at specific locations.
The police force says that the move will help tackle serious crime, including serious violence, gun and knife crime, child sexual exploitation and help protect the vulnerable.
They also say however, that the technology provides police officers with an additional tool to assist them in doing what officers have always done – to try to locate and arrest wanted people.
In other words, it’s the case of if you are wanted by the police, the technology will pick you out. If you’ve done nothing wrong, then it won’t.
The system gives police officers a ‘prompt’, suggesting “that person over there may be the person you’re looking for”, it is always the decision of an officer whether or not to engage with someone.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: “This is an important development for the Met and one which is vital in assisting us in bearing down on violence. As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard. Prior to deployment we will be engaging with our partners and communities at a local level.
“We are using a tried-and-tested technology, and have taken a considered and transparent approach in order to arrive at this point. Similar technology is already widely used across the UK, in the private sector. Ours has been trialled by our technology teams for use in an operational policing environment.
“Every day, our police officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for; Live Facial Recognition improves the effectiveness of this tactic.
“Similarly if it can help locate missing children or vulnerable adults swiftly, and keep them from harm and exploitation, then we have a duty to deploy the technology to do this.”
The Met will begin operationally deploying Live Facial Recognition at locations where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders. Each deployment will have a bespoke ‘watch list’, made up of images of wanted individuals, predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offences.
At a deployment, cameras will be focused on a small, targeted area to scan passers-by. The cameras will be clearly signposted and officers deployed to the operation will hand out leaflets about the activity. The technology, which is a standalone system, is not linked to any other imaging system, such as CCTV, body worn video or ANPR.
The question is though, how long will it be before the technology IS LINKED to other imaging systems?