Britain’s ‘epidemic’ of facial recognition cameras: How shopping centres, museums, casinos and public streets now use tech to track visitors – as privacy of millions faces ‘extinction’
- Campaigners say they have uncovered a facial recognition ‘epidemic’ in the UK
- Big Brother Watch say cameras are used on privately owned sites across Britain
- They found use of the tech in Sheffield’s shopping centre Meadowhall
- The campaign group have called the tech ‘deeply disturbing’ and a ‘privacy emergency’
Campaigners say they have uncovered a facial recognition ‘epidemic’ after a probe found the cameras are being used at privately owned sites across Britain.
Big Brother Watch said major property developers, shopping malls, museums, conference centres and casinos are using the ‘deeply disturbing’ technology without the public’s consent.
The campaign group said their investigation found ‘millions of innocent people’ will have unknowingly had their faces scanned in what they describe as a ‘privacy emergency.’
The probe uncovered the use of live facial recognition in Sheffield’s Meadowhall, one of the biggest shopping centres in the North of England, in secret police trials that took place last year.
The probe uncovered the use of live facial recognition in Sheffield’s Meadowhall (pictured) one of the biggest shopping centres in the North of England, in secret police trials that took place last year
The campaign group said their investigation found ‘millions of innocent people’ will have unknowingly had their faces scanned in what they describe as a ‘privacy emergency’ Pictured: A camera fitted with facial recognition technology
The trial could have scanned the faces of over 2 million visitors.
The World Museum in Liverpool and Millennium Point conference centre in Birmingham were also named in its investigation as locations where scans had taken place.
Yesterday the Information Commissioner’s Office announced it would launch its own investigation into the use of facial recognition cameras after it was revealed scanners were being used in the 67 acre King’s Cross area of London.
The UK’s data and privacy watchdog said it was ‘deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces’ and is seeking ‘detailed information’ about how it is used.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he had written to the chief executive of the King’s Cross development to raise his concerns.
The World Museum in Liverpool and Millennium Point conference centre (pictured) in Birmingham were also named in its investigation as locations where scans had taken place
Big Brother Watch also claimed it found the World Museum in Liverpool had used facial recognition scanning on visitors to an exhibition on ancient China
Big Brother Watch chief executive Silkie Carlo said increasing use of the technology was placing personal privacy at risk.
‘There is an epidemic of facial recognition in the UK,’ she said.
‘The collusion between police and private companies in building these surveillance nets around popular spaces is deeply disturbing. Facial recognition is the perfect tool of oppression and the widespread use we’ve found indicates we’re facing a privacy emergency.
‘We now know that many millions of innocent people will have had their faces scanned with this surveillance without knowing about it, whether by police or by private companies.’
The controversial technology has been used in Leicester Square, Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, sporting events and concerts
The group’s investigation found that Meadowhall shopping centre ‘s owner British Land also has sites in parts of London including Paddington, Broadgate, Canada Water and Ealing Broadway.
A British Land spokeswoman said: ‘We do not operate facial recognition at any of our assets.
‘However, over a year ago we conducted a short trial at Meadowhall, in conjunction with the police, and all data was deleted immediately after the trial.’
Big Brother Watch also claimed it found the World Museum in Liverpool had used facial recognition scanning on visitors to an exhibition on ancient China.
‘The idea of a British museum secretly scanning the faces of children visiting an exhibition on the first emperor of China is chilling.
The developer behind the 67-acre site (pictured) in the capital has admitted it has installed the technology, which can track tens of thousands of people every day
Canary Wharf is now in talks to install facial recognition across its 97-acre estate, which is home to major banks like Barclays, Credit Suisse and HSBC.
‘There is a dark irony that this authoritarian surveillance tool is rarely seen outside of China,’ Ms Carlo said.
‘Facial recognition surveillance risks making privacy in Britain extinct.
‘Parliament must follow in the footsteps of legislators in the US and urgently ban this authoritarian surveillance from public spaces.’
Big Brother Watch said it was told by National Museums Liverpool, which operates the World Museum, that it is ‘testing feasibility of using similar technology in the future’.
Last month, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said authorities should cease trials of facial recognition technology until a legal framework is established.
South Wales Police are set to start using an app that will allow them to instantly match a suspect’s face with their wanted lists (file image of facial recognition camera van)
MPs said the lack of legislation calls into question the legal basis of the trials.
In a report on the Government’s approach to biometrics and forensics, the MPs referred to automatic facial recognition testing by the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police, noting an evaluation of both trials by the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group raised questions about accuracy and bias.
In its statement, the ICO said yesterday: ‘Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all.’
The regulator said it was keen to ensure that King’s Cross developer was using the technology in accordance with UK laws governing the use of data.
The statement added: ‘Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law – and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way.’
HOW DOES FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY WORK?
Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person.
Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth which distinguish one person from another.
A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.
A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country
This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.
A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.
Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people.
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