UK court rules facial recognition use by police lawful

The High Court in Cardiff, the UK, has ruled that the use of automatic facial recognition technology (FRT) by the police is lawful. The ruling was issued in a case brought forward by a Cardiff citizen, who claimed that his right to privacy was breached by the South Wales Police’s use of FRT in street cameras. In its decision, the court found that the police were using FRT in line with the requirements of the Human Rights Act and their actions were subject to sufficient legal control. Although the ruling admitted that the use of automated FRT involves the processing of sensitive personal data (thus interfering with privacy rights), the court found that the police were lawfully processing such data. Moreover, the ruling also says that the current legal regime is adequate to ensure appropriate and non-arbitrary use of FRT. South Wales Police welcomed the ruling and said that it ‘will continue to explore how to ensure the ongoing fairness and transparency’ of its approach to using FRT. The UK Information Commissioner, which had previously stated that the legal framework for the police use of FRT was not sufficient, said it would be reviewing the court ruling carefully. Human rights organisation Liberty announced plans to appeal the ruling, noting that ‘facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all’.