SOUTH Wales Police have launched a facial recognition app which is to be installed on their officers’ phones, prompting human rights campaigners Liberty to exclaim: ‘This technology is intrusive, unnecessary, and has no place on our streets.’
In a three-month trial of the new police facial recognition app which has already prompted a legal challenge, 50 officers will be given the app.
The force’s use of facial recognition technology prompted a legal challenge by a man whose picture was taken by officers while he was out shopping.
Some other forces have already trialled the technology including the Metropolitan Police.
Hannah Couchman, of Liberty, said: ‘It is shameful that South Wales Police are rolling out portable facial recognition technology to individual officers while their so-called pilots are being challenged by Liberty in court. Far less intrusive means have been used for decades by police to establish a person’s identity where necessary.’
Meanwhile, the UN’s investigator into global poverty has said innocent people are being caught up in the mass surveillance system used by the UK’s welfare state to ‘combat benefit fraud’.
Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty, described it as a tragedy that people imagined that ‘the ever-more intrusive surveillance system by the UK welfare state’ was used only against alleged ‘welfare cheats’.
‘It’s not. It will soon affect everyone and leave the society much worse off. Everyone needs to pay attention and insist on decent limits,’ he said.
Alston said the UK’s surveillance system stood the presumption of innocence on its head. He said this was because everyone applying for a benefit was ‘screened for potential wrongdoing in a system of total surveillance’.
Rick Burgess, an activist with Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said fears that footage of his members and supporters demonstrating was being passed from police to the DWP had had a ‘chilling effect’ on people’s willingness to protest.
‘There are people who are not protesting today because they are terrified by what the DWP might know about them,’ he said. ‘The idea that information the police gather at protests about some of those taking part could be passed to the DWP for welfare fraud investigations is Stasi-like.’