Home Office written question – answered on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the decision by legislators in San Francisco to ban the use of facial recognition technology by local agencies; and what consideration they have given to introducing a similar ban in the UK until evidence of the effectiveness of such technology is more robust and the legal ground for widespread use is more clear.

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 a matter for the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors whether its agencies should use facial recognition technology, and it is right to debate the use of new technologies in democratic societies.

Live Facial Recognition (LFR) has the potential to play an important role in tackling crime, and the police here have commissioned independent reviews of its effectiveness. The police have broad common law powers to prevent and detect crime, which allows them to use surveillance cameras and LFR in public places for policing purposes.

However, these powers must be exercised in accordance with the law including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and having regard to the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. Possible matches produced by LFR systems are always checked by a human operator before deciding what, if any, action to take.

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