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  1. ITV Report

Facial recognition technology allegedly used at Birmingham conference centre

Millennium Point conference centre in Birmingham. Credit: ITV News Central

A Birmingham conference centre has been named in a list of shopping centres, museums and conference centres around the UK where facial recognition technology has been used, an investigation has claimed.

Millennium Point was named in the investigation by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.

The centre is the home to the Birmingham Science Museum on Curzon Street in Digbeth and is attended by thousands of people each year.

Big Brother Watch labelled the use of the technology an "epidemic" and said its use on privately owned sites was "deeply disturbing".

The group said the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield had carried out trials of the technology last year. British Land, which owns the Meadowhall site said: "We do not operate facial recognition at any of our assets.

"However, over a year ago we conducted a short trial at Meadowhall, in conjunction with the police, and all data was deleted immediately after the trial."

On Thursday 15 August, the Information Commissioner's Office announced it would launch its own investigation into the use of facial recognition cameras after it was revealed scanners were being used in the King's Cross area of London.

CCTV cameras stock image. Credit: PA

The UK's data and privacy watchdog said it was "deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces" and is seeking "detailed information" about how it is used.

Big Brother Watch chief executive Silkie Carlo said increasing use of the technology was placing personal privacy at risk.

There is an epidemic of facial recognition in the UK. The collusion between police and private companies in building these surveillance nets around popular spaces is deeply disturbing. Facial recognition is the perfect tool of oppression and the widespread use we've found indicates we're facing a privacy emergency.

We now know that many millions of innocent people will have had their faces scanned with this surveillance without knowing about it, whether by police or by private companies."

– Big Brother Watch Chief Executive Silkie Carlo

Millennium Point conference centre's privacy notice states:

We do sometimes use facial recognition software at the request of law enforcement authorities, e.g. the police or security services, and when this is done it will be automated data processing.

This facial recognition software will seek to identify individuals based on their features, i.e. biometric data, and may lead to criminal investigations.

The bases for this processing of biometric data, which is special category personal information, is that processing is necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims and also processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest."

– Millennium Point privacy notice

Last month, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said authorities should cease trials of facial recognition technology until a legal framework is established.

MPs said the lack of legislation calls into question the legal basis of the trials. In a report on the Government's approach to biometrics and forensics, the MPs referred to automatic facial recognition testing by the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police, noting an evaluation of both trials by the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group raised questions about accuracy and bias.