Police criticised for plans to use facial recognition cameras at Cardiff v Swansea match

South Wales Police has been criticised for its plans to use live facial recognition surveillance at this Sunday’s Cardiff City v Swansea City football match.

Fans, rights campaigners and a Police and Crime Commissioner say the plans are “a step too far”.

South Wales Police used the surveillance technology last October at another match between the two sides, attracting protests from fans.

A heavy police presence at the last game between Swansea City and Cardiff City in October Credit: PA Images

Use of facial recognition cameras is currently being challenged in two separate human rights cases that claim the surveillance breaches privacy rights.

One challenge is being brought by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch and Green peer Baroness Jenny Jones against the Metropolitan Police – who have since paused use of the technology; a further challenge is being pursued by Dr Ed Bridges against South Wales Police.

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.

The technology is being used for the second leg of the South Wales derby Credit: PA Images

It’s disproportionate to use facial recognition technology to take pictures of supporters at football matches. It’s a step too far and creates the potential for miscarriages of justice.

Arfon Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales

South Wales Police say the measures keep football fans safe.

It said those who have previously been convicted of offences at football matches are on the official "watch list" and all have valid banning orders in place.

The technology uses special cameras to scan the structure of faces in a crowd of people

This is only the third time in more than two-and-a-half years that the technology has been utilised at a football match and is intended to prevent disorder that has in the past affected matches involving both clubs.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Valentine, South Wales Police

In the wake of a string of legislative bans of facial recognition surveillance in the US, including in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Somerville, the pressure group Big Brother Watch is calling for an “urgent ban” in the UK.

The Football Supporters’ Association Wales intends to protest the police monitoring at this weekend’s match with Big Brother Watch.

Police repeatedly targeting football fans with this new and dangerous mass surveillance tool treats them like suspects, erodes public freedoms and wastes public money. South Wales Police are acting like big brother and seem tone deaf to public concerns.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch

The Football Supporters’ Association Wales said it would once again protest against the technology being used at football matches.

It’s unbelievable that police are targeting us with facial recognition surveillance again. Fans coming out for a local football match, including hundreds of families and children, will be treated like they’re in a police line up and have their faces scanned without their consent.

Vince Alm, spokesperson for the Football Supporters’ Association Wales