Biometrics

Home Office written question – answered on 29th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Evans of Weardale Lord Evans of Weardale Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the decision by San Francisco to ban the use of facial recognition technology by local agencies due to its alleged unreliability.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

It is right to debate the use of new technologies in democratic societies. It is clearly a decision for the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors whether its agencies should use facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition has the potential to play an important role in the detection and prevention of crime, and the police here have commissioned independent reviews of its effectiveness.

Facial recognition is a fast evolving area of technology with the potential to streamline identity verification and authentication processes across Government and the private sector. When used in the appropriate setting and context, it has proved to be a very reliable and accurate tool. Its performance is dependent on a number of variables, from the quality of the images, environmental factors, the specific algorithm used, the thresholds or risk profile applied and many other factors. Possible matches produced by live facial recognition systems are always checked by a human operator before deciding what, if any, action to take.

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