South Wales Police will give “serious attention” to facial recognition findings


The Court of Appeal has found that South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology is a breach of privacy rights, as well as data protection and equality laws. The decision was made this week, following submissions by advocacy group Liberty on behalf of Cardiff resident Ed Bridges.

The ruling follows a previous case in the High Court taking place last year, where it was ruled that South Wales’s use of facial recognition was not unlawful, and that the legal framework surrounding it was adequate.

This was challenged by Liberty this June, with the organisation suggesting that the former ruling “did not fully account for the ways in which the technology breaches our privacy and data protection rights and discriminates against people of colour.”

Speaking in response to the ruling, South Wales chief constable Matt Jukes said: “The test of our ground-breaking use of this technology has been an important step in its development, and I am confident this is a judgment that we can work with.

“Our priority remains protecting the public, and that goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to ensuring they can see we are using new technology in ways that are responsible and fair."

He continued: “Our policies have already evolved since [this was originally] considered by the courts. We are now in discussions with the Home Office and Surveillance Camera Commissioner about further adjustments we should make, and any other interventions that are required.

“We have already placed further focus on one concern [around a potential bias in algorithms]. Questions of public confidence, fairness and transparency are vitally important.”

Regarding the latter issue, according to South Wales, the Court of Appeal found no evidence of bias or discrimination in its use of the technology. It did however suggest that the force “never sought to satisfy themselves, either directly or by way of independent verification, that the software program in this case does not have an unacceptable bias on grounds of race or sex.”

South Wales has said that it will not appeal the findings. It has been trialling automatic facial recognition since 2017.

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Philip Mason
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