The Observer recently reported that Home Office officials have developed covert plans to lobby the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in an effort to hasten the adoption of contentious facial recognition technology in high street stores and supermarkets. Critics argue that such technology raises concerns about bias and data privacy.
Despite these objections, the Home Office appears to be pushing for the adoption of facial recognition in stores. The minutes of the recent meeting, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, appear to show Home Office officials agreeing to write to the ICO praising the merits of facial recognition technology in combating “retail crime”. This ignores critics who claim the technology violates human rights and is biased, particularly against darker-skinned people.
Police minister Chris Philp, senior Home Office officials, and the commercial company Facewatch came to an agreement on the covert strategy on 8th March 2023 during a meeting held behind closed doors. Facewatch provides facial recognition cameras to help retailers combat shoplifting. It has courted controversy and was investigated by the ICO earlier this year following a complaint by Big Brother Watch.
Despite finding multiple UK GDPR violations on 28th March, the ICO told Facewatch it would take no further action. The ICO said it “welcomed” remedial steps that Facewatch had taken, or would take, to address the above violations. Those remedial steps have been redacted from public information about the case.
Facial recognition technology has faced extensive criticism and scrutiny, leading the European Union to consider a ban on its use in public spaces through the upcoming Artificial Intelligence Act. However, the UK’s Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill proposes to eliminate the government-appointed Surveillance Camera Commissioner role and the requirement for a surveillance camera code of practice.
Our forthcoming CCTV workshop is ideal for those who want to explore the GDPR and privacy issues around all types of CCTV cameras including drones and body worn cameras. Our Advanced Certificate in GDPR Practice is a practical scenario based course designed to help delegates gain the confidence to tackle complex GDPR issues in methodical way.