UK Government Seeks Expanded Use of AI-based Facial Recognition By Police

In a document released on Wednesday, the government outlined its ambitions to potentially deploy new biometric systems nationally over the next 12 to 18 months. The move comes after privacy campaigners and independent academics criticised the technology for being inaccurate and biased, particularly against darker-skinned people.

MPs have previously called for a moratorium on its use on the general population until clear laws are established by parliament. The government is calling for submissions from companies for technologies that “can resolve identity using facial features and landmarks,” including for live facial recognition which involves screening the general public for specific individuals on police watch lists.

In particular, the Home Office is highlighting its interest in novel artificial intelligence technologies that could process facial data efficiently to identify individuals, and software that could be integrated with existing technologies deployed by the department and with CCTV cameras. Facial recognition software has been used by South Wales Police and London’s Metropolitan Police over the past five years across multiple trials in public spaces including shopping centres, during events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and, more recently, during the coronation.