On October 31, 2019, Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner issued an Opinion and an accompanying blog urging police forces to slow down adoption of live facial recognition technology and take steps to justify its use. The Commissioner calls on the UK government to introduce a statutory binding code of practice on the use of biometric technology such as live facial recognition technology. The Commissioner also announced that the ICO is separately investigating the use of facial recognition by private sector organizations, and will be reporting on those findings in due course.
The Opinion follows the ICO’s investigation into the use of live facial recognition technology in trials conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and South Wales Police (SWP). The ICO’s investigation was triggered by the recent UK High Court decision in R (Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales (see our previous blog post here), where the court held that the use of facial recognition technology by the South Wales Police Force (“SWP”) was lawful.
The ICO had intervened in the case. In the Opinion, the Commissioner notes that, in some areas, the High Court did not agree with the Commissioner’s submissions. The Opinion states that the Commissioner respects and acknowledges the decision of the High Court, but does not consider that the decision should be seen as a blanket authorization to use live facial recognition in all circumstances.