Facial recognition use by South Wales Police ruled unlawful
The use of automatic facial recognition (AFR) technology by the South Wales police is illegal, the Court of Appeals ruled.
This is followed by a legal challenge from civil rights group Liberty and Ed Bridges, 37, of Cardiff.
But the court also found that its use was a proportionate interference with human rights as the benefits outweighed the impact on Mr. Bridges.
South Wales police said they would not appeal the results.
Mr. Bridges had said that being identified by AFR caused him distress.
The court upheld three of the five points raised in the appeal.
He said there were no clear guidelines on where AFR Locate could be used and who could be put on a checklist, a data protection impact assessment was lacking and the force did not take reasonable steps to find out if the software had a racial or gender bias.
The appeal followed the dismissal of Mr. Bridges at the High Court in London in September by two senior judges, who concluded that the use of the technology was not illegal.
In response to Tuesday’s ruling, South Wales Police Chief Matt Jukes said: “Testing our groundbreaking use of this technology by the courts has been a positive and important step in its development. this is a judgment we can work with. “
Mr. Bridges said: “I am pleased that the court agreed that facial recognition clearly threatens our rights.
“This technology is an intrusive and discriminatory mass surveillance tool.
“The South Wales police have been using it against hundreds of thousands of us for three years, without our consent and often without our knowledge.
“We should all be able to use our public spaces without being subject to overwhelming surveillance.”
Bridges’ face was scanned while shopping for Christmas in Cardiff in 2017 and during a peaceful gun protest outside the city’s Motorpoint Arena in 2018.
He claimed that he violated his human rights when his biometrics were analyzed without his knowledge or consent.
Liberty attorney Megan Goulding described the ruling as “a great victory in the fight against discriminatory and oppressive facial recognition.”
He added: “It is time for the government to recognize the grave dangers of this intrusive technology. Facial recognition is a threat to our freedom – it has no place in our streets.”
The technology maps faces in a crowd by measuring the distance between features, then compares the results to a “checklist” of images, which can include suspects, missing persons and persons of interest.
South Wales Police have been experimenting with this form of AFR since 2017, mainly at major sporting events, concerts and other major events across the Armed Forces area.
The force had confirmed that Mr. Bridges was not a person of interest and had never been on a checklist.
In response to the ruling, the force said its use of technology led to the arrest of 61 people for crimes including robbery and violence, theft and judicial warrants.
He said he remained “fully committed to its careful development and deployment” and was “proud that there has never been an illegal arrest as a result of using the technology in South Wales.”
During last month’s remote hearing, Liberty attorney Dan Squires QC argued that if everyone was stopped and asked for their personal details as they entered a stadium, people would feel uncomfortable.
“If they did this with fingerprints, it would be illegal, but there are no legal constraints in doing this with AFR,” he said, as there are clear laws and guidelines on fingerprinting.
Mr. Squires said it was the potential use of the power, not its actual use to date, that was the problem.
“It is not enough that so far it has been done in a proportionate way,” he said.
He argued that current laws do not have sufficient safeguards to protect people from arbitrary use of technology or to ensure that its use is proportional.