Mayor Urged to Halt “Intrusive” Met Facial Recognition Trials

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The Greater London Authority (GLA) has expressed “significant concerns” about the use of facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police, calling on the London mayor to push for greater transparency and engagement.

GLA Oversight Committee chair, Len Duvall, wrote a lengthy letter to mayor Sadiq Khan last week around the handling of personal data.

In it, he complained that there had been little, if any, consultation with the public or relevant stakeholders before the Met used facial recognition tools during trials at events including the Notting Hill Carnival.

He had the following:

“We agree with the UK Biometrics Commissioner that the Met ‘must carry out a proper evaluation and publish the results’. You, as Mayor, and [Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime] MOPAC, through its oversight role, need to push the Met to improve its engagement and transparency on issues such as facial recognition. This is a hugely controversial topic and it is extremely disappointing that trials have been conducted at the Notting Hill Carnival with so little public engagement. Simply putting out press releases is not enough: the Met must engage with the public and with stakeholders in a much more meaningful way before going any further.”

Part of the problem is that the Met is conducting its trials in the absence of a legal framework, argued Duvall — who called on Khan to lobby the government to publish its long-delayed biometrics strategy.

He said there’s a strong case for the trials to be halted until such a framework is developed, either nationally or by the MOPAC.

“The concept of policing by consent is potentially at risk if the Met deploys such intrusive technology without proper debate and in the absence of any clear legal guideline,” he said.

He also argued that the GLA should make it easier for the public to find out how long their personal data is retained for, because different bodies — including TfL and the Met — hold data for different periods of time.

Duvall warned that the biggest threat to Londoners’ data comes from internal risks.

“It is vital that appropriate training is in place across the GLA Group, and that staff carry out this training regularly to minimize the risk of an accidental data breach occurring”, he concluded.

The GLA includes the mayor and a group of 25 officials elected to hold the executive to account.

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