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UK’s ICO investigates use of facial recognition tech in public spaces

UK citizens have been deeply concerned about the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, namely in the privately owned estate of Kings Cross in London.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched an investigation on the use of facial recognition technology following the revealing of the issue last week.

It has been speculated that Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, wrote to the King’s Cross Central development to inquire about the use of the technology and whether it is legal for them to be doing so; to which the developer of the site, Argent, stated that the technology was being used to “ensure public safety”.

In a statement by the ICO, Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, stated, “Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all. That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding.”

She added, “I remain deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, not only by law enforcement agencies but also increasingly by the private sector. My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data is used.”

The ICO has made it a priority to investigate the unethical use of facial recognition technology to protect their peoples’ rights.

This case is one of many within the UK where facial recognition technology was found to be used in public spaces.

The Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, has been warning the UK public bout facial recognition in not just public areas, but also privately owned sites.

The group found that some major property developers, shopping centers, museums and even casinos were using the technology in the UK. Through one of their investigations, they recently discovered that one of the biggest shopping centers in Northern England, Meadowhall (in Sheffield), was using the technology. The shopping center is owned by British Land, an organization that owns large areas in London and the company has denied the use of the technology on their estates and have placed the blame on Meadowhall, according to Big Brother Watch.

In reference to the trial on the case, British Land said, “Over a year ago, we conducted a short trial at Meadowhall, in conjunction with the police, and all data was deleted immediately after the trial.”

“Facial recognition surveillance risks making privacy in Britain extinct,” said Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch.