In October 2019 we concluded our investigation into how police use live facial recognition technology (LFR) in public places. Our investigation found there was public support for police use of LFR but also that there needed to be improvements in how police authorised and deployed the technology if it was to retain public confidence and address privacy concerns. We set out our views in a formal Opinion for police forces.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has incorporated the advice from our Opinion into its planning and preparation for future LFR use. Our Opinion acknowledges that an appropriately governed, targeted and intelligence- led deployment of LFR may meet the threshold of strict necessity for law enforcement purposes. We have received assurances from the MPS that it is considering the impact of this technology and is taking steps to reduce intrusion and comply with the requirements of data protection legislation. We expect to receive further information from the MPS regarding this matter in forthcoming days. The MPS has committed to us that it will review each deployment, and the ICO will continue to observe and monitor the arrangements for, and effectiveness of, its use.
This is an important new technology with potentially significant privacy implications for UK citizens. We reiterate our call for Government to introduce a statutory and binding code of practice for LFR as a matter of priority. The code will ensure consistency in how police forces use this technology and to improve clarity and foreseeability in its use for the public and police officers alike. We believe it’s important for government to work with regulators, law enforcement, technology providers and communities to support the code.
Facial recognition remains a high priority for the ICO and the public. We have several ongoing investigations. We will be publishing more about its use by the private sector later this year.