Ministers questioned on use of automated facial recognition surveillance by police

27 January 2020

Kit Malthouse, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, responded to an urgent question from Sarah Olney MP on police use of automated facial recognition surveillance.

Last week, the Metropolitan Police announced that they will use live facial recognition cameras across London. The move has been condemned by civil liberties and privacy campaign groups, who have concerns about the right to privacy and the inaccuracy of the technology, particularly when identifying black and minority ethnic faces.

Sarah Olney MP asked Minister of State, Kit Malthouse, for a statement on the technology's introduction.

Kit Malthouse MP : "quicker and more effective"

Responding on behalf of the Government, Kit Malthouse, Minister of State (Home Office) said that the Government is "supporting the police" and their use of facial recognition surveillance.

Mr Malthouse stated that the technology built on traditional policing techniques but made the search for suspects "quicker and more effective", citing its intended usage to identify violent criminals such as terrorists, drug barons and sex traffickers. However, he said that it must be applied within the legal framework of data protection, which he was satisfied the Met Police's plans met.

The Minister told MPs:

"Embracing new technology is vital, and we support the use of live facial recognition, which can help identify, locate and arrest violent and dangerous criminals who may otherwise evade justice."

Sarah Olney MP: "questionable at best"

Responding to the Minister, Sarah Olney described the rollout as "questionable at best", highlighting the potential implications on citizens' rights to freedom and privacy posed by the technology. She cited an independent review into the Met's facial recognition technology published in July 2019 that found "93 per cent" of supposed matches to be wrong.

Ms Olney also raised the report's finding that the technology was more likely to be inaccurate when identifying women and ethnic minorities, increasing police discrimination towards BAME communities. She stated that the Biometrics Commissioned, the Information Commissioner and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner had all raised concerns about the technology.

The Member told the House:

"We must not allow the UK to become a society where innocent people feel as though their every movement is being watched by the police."
  • Watch Parliament TV: Urgent Question on police use of automated facial recognition surveillance
  • Transcripts of proceedings in the House of Commons Chamber are available in Hansard online three hours after they happen.
  • Image: Pixabay

    Follow the @HouseofCommons on Twitter and @UKHouseofCommons on Instagram for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber and more.  

    Please fill in our quick feedback survey to help us improve our news content.

    More news on: Crime, civil law, justice and rights, Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Emergency services, Police, Privacy, Crime, House of Commons news, Members of Parliament, Commons news

    Share this page