British Lawmakers Join Calls for Ban on Use of Facial Recognition Technology

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Scores of British lawmakers from all parties signed up to a campaign Friday calling for an immediate ban on police and private companies using live facial recognition camera technology. File Photo by Geralt/


Oct. 6 (UPI) -- British lawmakers across all parties joined a campaign Friday calling for an immediate ban on police and businesses using live facial recognition surveillance cameras.

The 65 MPs and members of the House of Lords including former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, the Green MP Caroline Lucas and the former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, called for the ban after Policing Minister Chris Philp announced plans to make British passport photos searchable by police.

"With the Government now planning to turn all of our passport photos into mugshots for facial recognition scanning, yet again absent any democratic scrutiny, this intervention could not come at a more important time. This dangerously authoritarian technology has the potential to turn populations into walking ID cards in a constant police lineup," Sike Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, which spearheaded the campaign, said in a joint statement.

Under the police plans, information from the national police database, Passport Office and other national databases would be combined to help police find a match with the "click of one button," according to Philp.

The campaign against the technology is backed by 31 other rights organizations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the Race Equality Foundation.

The lawmakers who joined the call said they were concerned about the lack of evidence the technology actually worked, whether it was legal and the fact parliament had not authorized its use it, while the group leading the campaign said it was unreliable and discriminated against women and people of color.

"We hold differing views about live facial recognition surveillance, ranging from serious concerns about its incompatibility with human rights, to the potential for discriminatory impact, the lack of safeguards, the lack of an evidence base, an unproven case of necessity or proportionality, the lack of a sufficient legal basis, the lack of parliamentary consideration, and the lack of a democratic mandate," the joint statement read.

Live facial recognition, which scans people's faces and compares them with images of people on "watch lists," or who are wanted by authorities, is in use in stores, entertainment and sports venues, and bars and has been used by British police at major public events such as the coronation of King Charles III in May.

However, police make public in advance when and where it will be used and post notices warning people they are entering zones where the cameras are rolling.

Carlo, however, still characterized the use of the technology in Britain as "reckless" adding it makes it an outlier as the European Union has proposed a ban.

"This important call from MPs to urgently stop live facial recognition represents the greatest involvement parliamentarians have ever had in Britain's approach to facial recognition surveillance," Carlo said.

The Home Office said the technology had already resulted in fugitives being captured and insisted its legality had a "sound basis."

Facial recognition could also assist in finding missing or vulnerable people while freeing up officers for complicated investigations and patrolling the streets, a spokesman said.

In April 2022, Britain's privacy regulator fined U.S. facial recognition company Clearview AI $9.4 million for gathering images of people in Britain and elsewhere without obtaining their consent.

The Information Commissioner's Office ruled Clearview's actions breached the country's data protection laws requiring people's images are used in a way "that is fair and transparent."

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