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Judge allows appeal against police use of facial recognition technology after it was ruled 'lawful'

Facial recognition technology detects faces in a crowd and compares them with images from a 'watch list.' Credit: PA Images

A Cardiff activist has been given the right to appeal a court decision that police use of facial recognition technology is not unlawful.

Ed Bridges took South Wales Police to a High Court in London after he said his face was scanned while Christmas shopping in 2017 and at a peaceful anti-arms protest the following year.

The 36-year-old argued that the force's use of the technology caused him "distress" and violated his privacy and data protection rights by processing an image taken of him in public.

But the court dismissed his case in September after two leading judges said the use was lawful.

It was the first ever legal challenge over police use of facial recognition technology.

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The Court of Appeal is expected to hear Mr Bridges' case by January 2021.

Mr Bridges said he is pleased the court will hear the "concerns of so many."

"South Wales Police have continued to use facial recognition against many thousands of people, subjecting everyone to unjustified and oppressive surveillance."

Civil rights campaigner Megan Goulding said the technology "destroys our privacy."

Facial recognition gives the state unprecedented power to track and monitor us as we go about our daily lives.

This technology destroys our privacy, undermines our free expression, and discriminates against communities that already experience over-policing.

We're pleased the Court of Appeal has recognised the importance of these issues, and we will continue to fight the use of this intrusive technology on our streets."

– Megan Goulding, civil rights campaign group Liberty

After the ruling in September, South Wales Police Chief Constable Matt Jukes said, "There is, and should be, a political and public debate about wider questions of privacy and security.

"It would be wrong in principle for the police to set the bounds of our use of new technology for ourselves.

"So, this decision is welcome but, of course, not the end of the wider debate."

The Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case by January 2021.