Facial recognition used to search for paedophiles and terrorists at Cardiff Beyonce concert

Fans who gathered at the Beyoncé concert in Cardiff earlier this year were warned that live facial recognition would be used. Credit: PA

Crowds attending Beyonce's Cardiff concert were scanned for possible paedophiles or terrorists using facial recognition technology, it's been revealed.

The technology is being used by South Wales Police to scan crowds for individuals from the police’s watchlist. 

Due to many young girls being in attendance at the Beyoncé concert, the technology was also used to scan for paedophiles. 

Beyonce's concert at the Principality Stadium was part of her Renaissance World Tour. Credit: PA

Fans who gathered at the Principality Stadium to see Beyoncé in May, were warned that live facial recognition would be used to scan for paedophiles and terrorists.

Alun Michael, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, discussed the role of Artificial Intelligence in the force while appearing in front of MPs on the Welsh Affairs Committee on Wednesday. 

Following the Manchester Arena bombing during an Ariana Grande concert in 2017, police are increasingly vigilant with regards to terror threats. Mr Michael mentioned the use of facial recognition technology during similar events had become normal. 

What is facial recognition and how is it used?

According to the South Wales Police website, a watchlist is created containing individuals who are wanted by the police and courts. Typically those who “may pose a risk of harm to themselves or others”.

Cameras are then used to scan a specific area, as images are streamed to a live facial recognition technology. The images are compared to the watchlist, and should there be a match, an alert is generated. 

Worries surrounding personal data privacy have been raised, however Mr Michael believes utilising this resource is “sensible”.

He said there is a lot of “misunderstanding” regarding “how images are captured and kept”.

South Wales Police said images and data of individuals who do not cause an alert are immediately deleted. CCTV footage that is used by the Live Face Recognition technology is deleted after 31 days. Images that do cause alerts are deleted once the issue is resolved or within 24 hours.

Mr Michael said the most important point to consider was governance. 

He said: "When there is a live facial recognition deployment I am informed in advance and told what the watchlist is. It's an operational decision which I am, in live time, able to review and check."

According to Mr Michael, concert-goers were informed of the use of facial recognition technology in advance of the gig as well as the reasoning. 

He said those on the watchlist were "people known to be involved in extremism and terrorism in the light of the Manchester arena bombing - and secondly of paedophiles, because there would be very large numbers of young girls attending that concert".

"That was announced in advance and reported to me, it wasn't secretive," he added.

He said he felt the approach taken by South Wales Police when dealing with large scale events paired with facial recognition technology was the right one.

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