UK ICO Investigates Facial Recognition Technology in King's Cross

The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has launched an investigation into the use of facial recognition technology in London's King's Cross. The announcement followed news of the technology's use at Granary Square, a large, private development in the area.

Granary Square is a 67-acre development comprising 50 buildings. Press reports detailing the use of facial recognition in security cameras at the site first surfaced on Monday. According to the Guardian, its developers, Argent, Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper, admitted to using facial recognition technology "in the interest of public safety and to ensure that everyone who visits has the best possible experience."

The ICO acknowledged media reports that facial recognition was in use around King's Cross and pledged to investigate, calling the technology "a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all." Use of facial recognition systems without people's knowledge is a particular worry, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham added.

"As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law," Denham said in a statement.

“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," she added. "They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified."

This isn't the first time that privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the use of facial recognition technology in central London. In December, privacy campaigners attacked the Metropolitan Police force for using the technology in SoHo, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.

In May, San Francisco voted to ban the use of facial recognition by city departments altogether, making it the first city to do so. Oakland, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts, followed suit. July saw the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recommend a suspension of facial recognition trials by the UK Government until the technology can be properly evaluated.

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