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Court threat over police use of facial recognition technology

AFR or Automated Facial Recognition technology Credit: ITV Wales

A Cardiff man is threatening to take South Wales Police to court over the use of new technology to catch criminals in what could become a landmark legal battle.

Since June 2017, the force has been deploying Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) cameras in large crowds.

Specialist vans scan faces seeking a match against a database of persons of interest.

The force says over two thousand positive matches have been made with over 450 arrests, but critics say the technology is a breach of privacy.

Now Ed Bridges says he will take legal action against the force if it doesn't immediately end AFR use.

Ed Bridges has written to the Chief Constable of South Wales Matt Jukes Credit: Liberty

Mr Bridges who is being represented by human rights organisation Liberty believes his face was scanned as he was Christmas shopping and protesting at an arms fair.

The police have used this intrusive technology throughout Cardiff with no warning, no explanation of how it works and no opportunity for us to consent.

They’ve used it on protesters and on shoppers.

This sort of dystopian policing has no place in our city or any other.

– Ed Bridges

Scanning thousands of our faces and comparing them to shady databases with wildly inaccurate results has seriously chilling implications for our freedom and puts everyone in a continuous police line-up that carries a huge risk of injustice.

– Corey Stoughton, Liberty

While all faces are scanned, matches with the databased are approved manually by an officer.

Correct match is called a 'True Positive Alert', and an incorrect one a 'False Positive Alert'.

The forces' own figures show there have been thousands of false matches including 2,297 at the Champions league final and 42 at the Wales vs Australia game.

Police insist nobody has been arrested based on a false match.

South Wales Police has received correspondence relating to the deployment of automated facial recognition technology which we will be responding to in due course.

The force has been very cognisant of concerns surrounding privacy and are confident that our approach is lawful and proportionate.

– South Wales Police statement
2,297
False Positive Alerts at the Cardiff Champions League Final
7
False Positive Alerts at the Elvis Festival
46
False Positive Alerts at the Joshua Fight

In a statement South Wales Police say they have received "correspondence relating to the deployment of automated facial recognition technology which we will be responding to in due course.

The force has been very cognisant of concerns surrounding privacy and are confident that our approach is lawful and proportionate."