U.K. Privacy Chief Sounds Alarm Over Live Facial Recognition

Britain’s privacy chief issued a warning over the risks from facial recognition technology, saying people should be free to go shopping or walk around a town “without having our biometric data collected and analyzed with every step we take.”

Elizabeth Denham, the U.K. Information Commissioner, said in a blog post that she’s deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition technology, or LFR, to be used “inappropriately, excessively or even recklessly.” She urged organizations and private companies to put people’s privacy “at the heart of any decisions to deploy” the technology in public spaces.

While law enforcement agencies around the world are rapidly adopting LFR as a real-time tool to help quickly sweep large crowds for criminals, civil liberties groups have warned of the dangers of discrimination and other abuse by law enforcement using facial recognition. The ICO is concerned the technology can also be used to automatically identify people, infer sensitive details about them or target them with personalized advertising.

Denham’s comments follow a warning by European Union data protection authorities last year over the unfettered use of biometric data and facial-recognition technology, urging companies and agencies to consider “less intrusive” tools.

The EU has proposed new rules that would require any facial recognition systems to undergo audits by external bodies before being deployed in the region to ensure they won’t lead to discrimination.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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